EPA moves to limit frequent chemical accidents

By Shannon Kelleher

Hundreds of chemical facilities around the US must implement new procedures to try to better safeguard communities from accidents that are happening with alarming frequency and jeopardizing human and environmental health.

New measures announced Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require industrial operators to “prevent accidental releases of dangerous chemicals that could otherwise cause deaths and injuries, damage property and the environment, or require surrounding communities to evacuate or shelter-in-place.”

The final rule, which amends the EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) that applies to plants dealing with hazardous chemicals, asks facilities to evaluate the risks of natural hazards and climate change, makes information about chemical hazards more accessible for people living near these facilities. The rule also allows for plant employees to stop working when they think there is a potential hazard.

This new requirements are expected to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents, building on revisions proposed in 2022. They provide the most protective safety provisions for chemical facilities in the EPA’s history, EPA deputy administrator Janet McCabe said on a press call.

Accidental releases of chemicals from industrial facilities cost the US more than $540 million each year, McCabe said on the press call, not including major catastrophes that can individually cost much more.