Long-Overdue EPA Risk Management Program Rule Aims to Help At-Risk Communities, but Needs Significant Strengthening

Published Feb 25, 2016

WASHINGTON (February 25, 2016)—Today, the Environmental Protection Agency released proposed revisions for its Risk Management Program (RMP), which helps communities and first responders prepare for and prevent chemical disasters. The rule is important, but the proposal isn’t strong enough, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“We’re glad to see the EPA finally putting out a rule, but it needs to be stronger to truly help communities and first responders understand, and meaningfully respond to, the risks they face from chemical plants. As we know from incidents like the West, Texas explosion, chemical disasters can put communities in real danger—but too often, local emergency response personnel and people who live near industrial facilities don’t have enough information to prepare for the emergencies that can arise from accidents and chemical spills. The RMP is a vital tool for public safety and health, but will only work if the data is accessible, available and usable.

“This proposal is too narrow in the facilities it covers, and the public needs access to more information about the kind of dangers they might face. All across our country, polluting and high-risk facilities with dangerous chemicals are often disproportionately located near poorer neighborhoods and communities of color. The people who live near industrial facilities, and their local emergency planning commissions, need to know more about what’s happening in their backyard, not less, and they must be able to hold companies publicly accountable if anything goes wrong.

“To finalize this important rule, the EPA should hold multiple public hearings, particularly in communities most likely to be affected by chemical disasters. These hearing should be published ahead of time so that community members can attend and make their voices heard.  We urge the EPA to expedite the consultation and finalization of a strong rule that truly improves access to information, and planning and preparedness of communities at risks of chemical accidents. UCS will continue to mobilize the scientific community to make sure we get this done right.”