September 8, 2017
Steve Richmond , a Principal at Beveridge & Diamond's Boston, MA office, was recently quoted in two articles addressing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) program, the first an August 24, 2017 Inside EPA article titled " RMP Case Shows Stricter EPA Oversight Of Facility Process, Attorneys Say " and the second a September 6, 2017 BloombergBNA article titled " EPA Last Inspected Flooded Arkema Plant in 2003 ." The articles focus on regulatory and enforcement developments under the EPA’s Risk Management Plan rules and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s process safety management (PSM) program.
According to the Inside EPA article, the EPA is seemingly ramping up its application of RMP enforcement as evidenced by a recent case against a Rhode Island metals company that involved fairly detailed process hazard allegations. Richmond comments on EPA’s growing sophistication in its enforcement responses under the RMP program, and how the agency’s increased understanding of process safety concepts is leading to more complex cases and higher enforcement risks for regulated industries. Richmond notes that just a few years ago, EPA was criticized repeatedly by its own Office of Inspector General for a failure to appropriately train and supervise RMP inspectors, and that the weaknesses in the program were apparent. "They seem to have taken the criticism to heart and substantially beefed up the training and joint efforts with OSHA, and within EPA on its own, to increase the education of its inspectors,” Richmond says. The recent Rhode Island case “shows EPA has learned from the past."
The heightened national focus on storm-related impacts on companies that manage chemicals following Hurricane Harvey in Texas is profiled in the BloombergBNA article. In that piece, Richmond was asked to discuss whether EPA has sufficient resources to conduct thorough inspections. He noted that both EPA and OSHA conduct similar chemical process safety inspections, EPA under the RMP program and OSHA under the PSM program, and that OSHA has a National Emphasis Program that prioritizes PSM inspections. He noted that in his experience these inspections, by either agency, can be quite intensive: “if you have five inspectors on site for as much as a week, they can cover a lot of ground.”