Pruitt Delays Chemical Plant Regulation Changes to 2019

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By Sam Pearson

Chemical companies, oil refiners and other industrial sites will see a reprieve from an Obama administration regulation that would have imposed new safety requirements, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a final rule June 12 delaying a final rule amending the risk management program regulations (RIN:2050-AG82) to Feb. 19, 2019, the agency said. The decision grants requests by industry trade organizations and companies such as Marathon Petroleum, LyondellBassell Corp., Western Refining, and Koch Industries, which met with the EPA on the issue this year.

The 20-month delay of the regulation’s effective date will allow the EPA’s new leadership to review two industry petitions for reconsideration and a third petition from 11 states and public comments, as well as to “consider other issues that may benefit from additional public input,” Pruitt said in a statement.

The rule came at the end of a multiyear Obama administration effort to close regulatory gaps at high-risk chemical facilities after a Texas fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people in April 2013. It changes how high-risk plants must share information with nearby residents, evaluate plants after safety events, and work with local responders, among other modifications

Possible changes to the regulation could include reducing the ways in which companies must provide the public with access to information about facility operations, relaxing requirements for safety audits, and ending a mandate that high-risk plants evaluate if they can operate using safer chemical processes, among other proposals.

The decision was “disappointing but not surprising,” given Pruitt’s record on regulatory issues, Yogin Kothari, a Washington representative at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg BNA June 12.

Scott Jensen, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, said in an email to Bloomberg BNA June 12 Pruitt “has made the right and necessary decision to review the problematic changes that could undermine the safety of chemical facilities and communities across the country and threaten the continued success of the underlying program.”

Industry Petitioned for Reconsideration

The EPA received three petitions for reconsideration from two industry groups and the attorneys general of Louisiana, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. The first was filed Feb. 28 by the RMP Coalition—an industry group comprised of the American Chemistry Council, American Forest & Paper Association, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and the Utility Air Regulatory Group.

Another group, the Chemical Safety Advisory Group, which did not initially disclose its members, also filed a petition for reconsideration March 13. According to an EPA meeting log posted June 9, its members include Patricia McCullough, director of environmental regulatory affairs at Koch Industries; Scott Haney, corporate safety supervisor at Marathon Petroleum Corp.; Steven Cook, senior corporate counsel at LyondellBassell Industries; and Marise Textor, director of regulatory affairs at Western Refining Inc. None responded to requests for comment June 12.

The decision caps a process launched in late March, when Pruitt announced the delay would be considered. The EPA subsequently heard from industry and chemical safety groups at a public meeting April 19 and accepted written comments through May 19.

Pruitt criticized the proposed rule in 2016 as Oklahoma attorney general, writing a letter to the EPA assailing the plan as harmful to chemical plants’ security.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Pearson in Washington at spearson@bna.com

To contact the editor on this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

For More Information

The EPA's final rule is available at http://src.bna.com/pLX.

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