EPA to reconsider chemical plant safety rule

EPA to reconsider chemical plant safety rule
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday delayed a safety rule for chemical plants and kicked off a formal process to consider repealing it.

The rule, which was made final in December under the Obama administration, overhauls the standards that apply to chemical plants and similar facilities to prevent and mitigate accidental chemical release emergencies.

The decision comes just two weeks after a coalition of industry groups affected by the rule wrote to Pruitt asking for such action. Congressional Republicans have also objected, and Congress is considering legislation by Sen. Jim InhofeJames InhofeTop GOP senators tell Trump to ditch Paris climate deal GOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing GOP skeptical of Trump plan for paid parental leave MORE (R-Okla.) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) to overturn the rule.

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“As an agency, we need to be responsive to concerns raised by stakeholders regarding regulations so facility owners and operators know what is expected of them,” Pruitt said in a late Monday statement announcing the reconsideration.

As part of the Monday action, Pruitt delayed the effective date to June 19. It had been planned to take effect March 14, and was previously delayed a week as part of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus’s regulatory freeze issued on the day of President Trump’s inauguration.

Rolling back the rule was a key wish from the industries it affects.

“EPA’s data shows that the pre-existing [Risk Management Program] regulation promoted safety, with a significant decline in the rate of accidental releases and incidents in the last twenty years,” a coalition of chemical and manufacturing groups wrote in a petition to Pruitt two weeks ago.

“Unfortunately, the final rule undermines safety, creates significant security risks, and does nothing to further prevent criminal acts that threaten facilities.”

The coalition is also suing the EPA in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to try to get the rule overturned.

The EPA estimated that the rule could cost industry as much as $142 million annually to comply.

Changing or repealing the rule would require the EPA to go through a full rulemaking process, including an opportunity for public comment, which could take a year or more. Any final action could be subject to lawsuits by opponents.