Edited Version June 9, 1999
EIIP Classroom Online Presentation
"Risk Management Plans:
Beyond June 21"
Head, Communications Team
Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office (CEPPO)
Environmental Protection Agency
The original unedited transcript of the June 9, 1999 online Virtual Classroom presentation is available on the EIIP Virtual Forum (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussions, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the presenter to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.
Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Classroom!
One quick note about any URL's that may be used in the session; they are live links and you can click on them and view the referenced site in your browser window. Subsequent pages may display behind your chat window, so you may need to bring the browser window forward. Background information for today's session may be found at <http://www.emforum.org/vclass/990609.htm>.
We will have a presentation for about thirty minutes, and then have audience Q&A for the last thirty minutes. We will review the instructions for Q&A as we begin that portion.
We are pleased to welcome Carole Macko, Head of the Communications Team for the Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office (CEPPO) of the Environmental Protection Agency. You should realize by now that companies that come under the Risk Management Planning (RMP) rules are required to file certain information by June 21. Carole is here to tell us what will happen after that in RMP: Beyond June 21. Carole, thank you for being with us today.
Carole Macko: By June 21, companies that use any of 140 toxic and flammable substances will submit an accident prevention/crisis management plan that describes what they are doing to prevent a catastrophic accident from happening.
The type and quantity of chemicals that are used determines if a company must report ---not the size of the company. Chemical and petrochemical manufacturers, cold storage facilities, drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, and chemical warehouses are covered under this law. Chemicals covered by this regulation include ammonia and chlorine that many small businesses commonly store and use.
EPA expects to receive Clean Air Act Section 112(r) reports from nearly 30,000 companies. The Risk Management Plan or RMP is available to State and local governments, the Chemical Safety Board, and citizens to help them understand chemical hazards and take steps to prevent accidents or mitigate the consequences of releases that do occur.
Information in the RMP complements data already available at the State and local levels under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act and under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
The RMP submitted by most companies includes:
The RMP program is an outgrowth and expansion of successful federal and industry standards that established practices to prevent and mitigate chemical accidents. RMP gives industry and government an opportunity to coordinate their emergency planning and preparedness efforts and build on existing programs.
Decisions about emergency preparedness and response, as well as accident prevention, should be made at the local level. EPA encourages state and local agencies to become involved and to seek delegation for the RMP program.
The RMP program builds on state programs already in place such as:
Many states already have passed legislation to fold RMP requirements into these existing state programs. Let's go to the EPA website to look at what States are doing.
After June 21, delegated States will audit companies that have submitted RMPs to ensure the plans are adequate. An RMP is a blueprint of the underlying safety program at the facility, just as an emergency response plan is a blueprint of an emergency response program for a community.
States like Delaware, California, New Jersey, and Nevada that have been running similar programs for several years are expected to do more audits. If a State has not accepted delegation, the program defaults to EPA.
Expect States and EPA Regions to use other tools such as EPCRA Tier II reports, permit information, and fire inspection reports to determine companies that should have reported, but failed to do so.
In the first few years of most environmental regulatory programs, the enforcement emphasis is on companies that failed to report. EPA generally focuses on compliance assurance rather than trying to prove "quality cases."
States or locals that adopt RMP can take advantage of the economic benefits of having a strong accident prevention program in the community. In addition to the obvious costs associated with a chemical accident (e.g., property and health damage, conducting an emergency response) there are other hidden costs.
Those costs include commercial business shutdowns during an evacuation or power outage, higher insurance rates, and citizen fears of accidents and health risk. Generally, insurers side with environment and consumer groups that public disclosure of toxic chemical information, done right with accurate assessments of public safety threats and precautions, is a good thing for communities and can calm public fear of the unknown.
How this information is delivered to the public is most important. No one wants to frighten residents by describing a potential catastrophe in their community that may never happen. Unlike Superfund legislation that spells out how a community relations plan is to be handled, the RMP program does not obligate companies to communicate the contents of these plans to the public.
Companies only are required to provide the information to EPA. Therefore, State and local governments may become the messenger and will need to strategically craft a plan to explain the often technical and complicated contents of these plans to the media and the public.
The National Safety Council is developing a series of booklets that explains how citizens and journalists can use RMP data. You can download a copy of the first guide at <http://www.nsc.org/ehc/rmp.htm>.
EPA intends to post all RMP data, except for the Off-Site Consequence portion, on the Internet. The data will be available through EPA's Envirofacts system. We do not expect to have a fully populated database until Fall.
On May 7, the Clinton Administration provided Congress with draft legislation intended to reduce the risk of potential misuse of the OCA data. The challenge facing EPA is how to provide the public with the information they need while not providing an easy targeting tool for terrorists.
The bill specifically addressed the security risk identified by the FBI of availability of OCA data in a searchable database on the Internet. You can track the progress of the bill at <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:h.r.01790:>.
Research will play an important role once all of the data is gathered by EPA. The Agency will use the data to:
Other groups already are standing by to conduct further research. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania will explore risk factors for accidents using an epidemiological approach. Wharton also plans to analyze several industry groups (i.e. ammonia cold storage facilities and water chlorination plants) to determine whether economic and safety factors have the same associations with adverse events across different size plants, different processes etc.
At Texas A&M, a research team already is looking at the entire landscape of accident prevention efforts in the U.S. They will survey industry, trade associations, professional organizations, State and local governments, EPA and other federal agencies to determine who is doing what. We expect the team to recommend ways these groups can better leverage their resources to improve accident prevention.
Everyone should view June 21 as a beginning to explore issues that will be raised and look to expand industry safety programs and improve notification between companies and local emergency responders.
I would like to encourage everyone to visit the CEPPO website regularly to keep up with these studies, find out more about chemical safety, and keep abreast of changes in the RMP program <http://www.epa.gov/ceppo>.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to let me speak to you. I would like to turn the program back to Amy for the Q&A session.
Amy Sebring: Thank you, Carole. We will now turn you over to our audience. If you have a question or comment, please indicate by inputting a question mark (?) to the chat screen. Then compose your question but hold it until you are recognized; then hit Enter or Send.
M. Parker: How much of an impact will there be on local government?
Carole Macko: That depends on how much of the program a State may take. Resources have to come out of State or local budgets. Yes, we do have some local governments that have taken the program. Many States have incorporated a fee into their system.
M. Parker: I work for the Fire Department as an inspector; will we have this info readily available through the LEPC?
Carole Macko: Yes. Fire Fighters will have this data available through the LEPC. What is unclear right now is how that will happen. Congressional action is still up in the air. However, EPA intends to give LEPCs the data through a closed system called RMP Review. It will be password protected so that others cannot gain access to the data. Additionally, LEPCs (under EPCRA) have the legal authority to ask for ANY data they feel is necessary to prepared/update their emergency response plan.
Billy Zwerschke: We have finished our second RMPs and presented it to the public in town meetings. Participants were very active and very little negative comments. They were pleased with the information presented by the plant managers in conjunction with the CMA presentations.
Carole Macko: I have attended several RMP rollouts (these are presentations given by industry in conjunction with local officials.) I experienced the same feeling from the audience. This is why risk communication is so important. What is troubling is that lately companies have shown reluctance to share the OCA data because of all the publicity given to the issue of terrorists accessing the data.
Billy Zwerschke: We have had no problem with industry and we have six plants in our county and two in a neighboring community who were all in the CMA presentations. Biggest problem is this is an unfunded project and some legislative action should be enacted to cover this cost of information from the local level and more authority to EMC or LEPC chair.
Daryl Spiewak: What terrorist threat did the FBI determine for the OCAs? I was only aware of the potential threat they thought existed.
Carole Macko: You are correct in your assumption. In fact, Congress is asking the FBI for an explanation of why they think public access to this data is potentially a threat. Many congressmen are asking if plants are doing enough about site security.
Daryl Spiewak: When is the FBI report due to Congress and will it be made public?
Carole Macko: I do not think that they have officially asked for an official report. Rumors abound and there are several versions of draft legislation that would require a plant security assessment.
Daryl Spiewak: Will the law be changed to reflect the censorship of the OCA data?
Carole Macko: Congress would have to pass legislation.
Amy Sebring: Will at least some of the elements of the RMP, other than OCA, be made available to general public via Internet?
Carole Macko: Yes. In fact, the accident history is probably a good indicator of whether a company is doing a good job of preventing accidents. We will post all data except for the OCA portion of the RMP.
M. Parker: Sounds like a good accountability system.
Daryl Spiewak: Doesn't that violate the law as currently written?
Carole Macko: Not necessarily. I would encourage you to look at the draft bill that I gave you the website address for. It amends the Freedom of Information Act. That has been done in the past with information gathered from the nuclear industry.
Daryl Spiewak: Yes, but that is only a draft. The law is effective now!
Avagene Moore: I have had friendly arguments with EM practitioners about the relationship between emergency management and risk management --- some people think there is none. What is your opinion on the relationship? Why should the emergency manager be interested in the RMP?
Carole Macko: EMs can use this new information to update their plans. Likewise, they may become the communicator of information if companies fail to talk to the public about their risks. Under the law, companies only have to submit their RMPs to EPA. They do not have to give the information to the public.
Amy Sebring: Carole, what is the current status with respect to propane?
Carole Macko: Several things are happening. Senator Inhoffe has introduced legislation that would eliminate ALL FLAMMABLES from reporting, that bill is pending. The court also issued a stay of reporting of ALL propane until they reconvene later this Fall when then they will hear the case that was filed against EPA by the National Propane Gas Association. Additionally, EPA has stayed reporting for facilities that use propane as a fuel if they have the fuel in amounts less than a total of 67,000 lbs. (the amount generally found in an 18,000 gallon tank.) EPA also proposed a regulation that would make the 67,000 lbs. the new reporting threshold for propane. So, as you can see, lots of things are happening on several fronts.
Amy Sebring: Carole, I understand that some states are reluctant to take delegation due to the audit burden. Can you describe what you mean by "prove quality cases?"
Carole Macko: That is correct. Many States do not have the resources ($$$ or staff) to do this. A quality case in a case where EPA would prove that the quality of the information if flawed. In other words, a company reported false or misleading information.
Daryl Spiewak: Does the EPA have backup servers to receive 30,000+ RMPs over the Internet on June 21st?
Carole Macko: We do not accept reports via the Internet. Facilities mail us diskettes and we enter the data.
Amy Sebring: Carole, will these be processed in any particular order or just first in, first out?
Carole Macko: We already have received about 2,000 reports. We load them in the order we receive them. As they say on PBS, "We have operators standing by."
Terry Storer: Several "public interest" conservation groups have already stated they plan to publish OCA data. How is this being dealt with?
Carole Macko: We have no examples of anyone who has actually said this officially. Everything is anecdotal. The congress is reviewing whether to impose penalties if someone posted the data if they pass legislation banning posting.
Amy Sebring: I noticed on your Website, some tips for filers based on review of the first submissions. Can you comment on some of these typical errors?
Carole Macko: One of the things we see all the time is facilities forget to submit their certification letter. We also have set up a hotline help line for facilities that have difficulty downloading the software package. Everything goes through a completeness check prior to EPA loading the files. If we find mistakes, we notify the company so they can correct the mistake.
Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Carole, and thank you audience. We will have a text transcript posted later today, and a reformatted version early next week. You can access these via the Transcripts link under Quick Picks on our home page.
[Editor's Note: Besides the National Safety Council link to RMP backgrounders given above, following the session, Carole Macko provided an additional URL <http://www.nsc.org/xroads.htm> which includes links to five backgrounders.]
Our time is about up, but before we adjourn, Ava will give us a heads up on our upcoming events.
Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. I am pleased to report that next week, one of the EIIP Founding Partners, the Congressional Fire Service Institute (CFSI), will host their first Round Table on Tuesday June 15 at 12:00 Noon EDT. CFSI will be hosting a monthly Round Table session every third Tuesday of the month to discuss fire service issues and concerns.
On Wednesday June 16, 12:00 Noon EDT, we have an exciting panel discussion on Global Sustainable Development --- a hot topic domestically and internationally and one you will hear more and more about as time goes on. Our panelists are: Helene Valdes, IDNDR Secretariat, Costa Rica; Stephen Bender, Organization of American States (OAS), Washington DC; and Ollie Davidson plus possibly one other representative of the World Bank in Washington DC.
Please make plans to attend both these sessions. Good learning and networking opportunities in both! That's all for now, Amy.
Amy Sebring: We will adjourn the session but you are invited to join us back in the Virtual Forum room for a few more minutes of open discussion and to thank our special guest.