LEGAL ISSUES

Small Businesses and the EPA Risk Management Program

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On June 21, 1999, companies of all sizes that use certain listed chemicals will submit for the first time plans thatdetail how they will prevent accidental chemical releases from occuring. The type and quantity of chemicals thatyou use will determine if you are affected rather than the size of your company. Chemicals covered by this newregulation (a.k.a. the "regulated substances") include propane, ammonia and chlorine that many small businessescommonly store. This article is meant to be a brief introduction to this new program and is by no means acomprehensive explanation - but it should help answer your most crucial questions and serve as a starting point forfurther investigation.

What is the Risk Management Program all about - and why might I be covered?

The Clean Air Act Section 112(r) required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to publish regulationsfocusing on chemical accident prevention. Congress and EPA's Chemical Emergency Preparedness andPrevention Office intended this new regulation to build upon the chemical safety work begun under the EmergencyPlanning and Community Right-to-Know Act which requires state and local governments to properly plan for andrespond to chemical accidents. The Risk Management Program focuses us all on prevention of these accidents, notjust preparation and response.

Your business will likely be required to comply with the Risk Management Program if you use any of the 100+regulated substances in quantities that meet certain thresholds. Even if you are a small business, you may beusing common hazardous chemicals in quantities great enough to cause harm to the surrounding community ifthere were an accident:

  • chlorine - covered if you exceed 2,500 lbs
  • ammonia (anhydrous) - covered if you exceed 10,000 lbs
  • propane - covered if you exceed 10,000 lbs (2,500 gallon-capacity water tank)

If you have discovered that you are subject to the Risk Management Program, you will then determine which tieredprogram you fit into. EPA established three levels of requirements to reduce the regulatory burden for facilitieswith a low risk of offsite impacts in the event of a chemical accident. Program Level 1 has the fewestrequirements, while Program Levels 2 and 3 require more work because their processes present a greater risk to thesurrounding communities.

We strongly urge you to contact EPA's confidential Hotline (see below) and your State Technical AssistanceDirector as you determine whether the chemicals you use are RMP-covered substances and trigger thresholds andas you determine whether you should comply with Level 1, 2 or 3 requirements.

Last updated: Oct 22, 1999




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