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Policy Integrity Recommendations Reflected in Amendments to EPA’s RMP Rule

In February 2024, EPA finalized amendments to its Risk Management Program (RMP), under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, to better protect vulnerable communities from chemical disasters that release toxic air pollution. The final rule reflects new safeguards, such as requiring certain facilities to conduct analyses to identify safer technologies and chemical alternatives, and improving investigations after an incident. EPA’s data show that between 2004 and 2020, there were more than 2,400 incidents at RMP-regulated facilities, amounting to billions of dollars in aggregate monetized damages. Policy Integrity submitted comments explaining that these numbers are a significant underestimate of damages from chemical incidents because of the delays between when accidents occur and are reported, unreported accidents, and a significant portion of difficult-to-quantify damages are Moreover, Clean Air Act Section 112(r) and the underlying regulatory program are intended to reduce worst-case catastrophes which could be orders of magnitude worse than the average monetized costs of past accidents. Policy Integrity’s comments explained why EPA may be undervaluing the benefits of the rule in light of these and other issues and asked EPA to update the RIA accordingly and then consider whether the final rule should be strengthened in light of the new analysis.

In line with Policy Integrity’s recommendations, the final rule has been strengthened relative to the proposal and includes considerably more attention to the issues of underreporting, unquantified benefits, and the risks of catastrophic incidents. In the final rule, EPA further recognizes that the unquantified incident damages could even eclipse the quantified incident damages in some cases, places weight on preventing potential catastrophic disasters as well as mitigating more common incidents, and finds the rule’s benefits justify its costs on the basis of considering both quantified and unquantified effects.

EPA has further improved the final rule to include consideration of climate change-related hazards in line with Policy Integrity’s recommendation to cover climate change-exacerbated hazards in addition to climate change-caused hazards. This will be increasingly important as the risks and magnitude of future chemical incident damages will likely only grow as climate change exacerbates severe weather that can spur power outages and chemical disasters.