A proposal issued by EPA would remove all details on worst-case scenarios for potential chemical accidents from executive summaries of company risk management plans (RMPs). The Clean Air Act requires 15,000 facilities that make or use large quantities of toxic or flammable chemicals to compile RMPs to provide key information to emergency planners, fire departments and residents.

Congress has restricted access to this information by making it available only in local reading rooms. EPA no longer supplies RMP information directly to the public.

Removal of worst-case-scenario information could free EPA to supply RMP summaries directly to the public, perhaps by mail or via the Internet.

The proposal would also make other changes to RMPs:

  • Facilities having a chemical accident that causes death, injury, significant property damage or evacuation would be required to update their RMPs within six months of the incident. The revised RMP would add the incident to a plant's accident history. Under current rules, chemical facilities update their RMPs - and accident histories - every five years.

  • Facilities would have to indicate in an accident history whether a release was due to an uncontrolled or runaway chemical reaction rather than mechanical problems such as a broken pipe. The Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board, an independent federal panel, recommended this change, saying that reactive chemical accidents are a growing problem.

  • EPA may require updated RMPs to include data on workplace injuries and illness, information facilities already collect for OSHA. Providing this data in RMPs "would greatly facilitate analysis of trends in the U.S. chemical industry on accidental releases and the relationship of these, if any, to facility safety levels," EPA says.