EPA announces stricter rules to prevent chemicals incidents

EPA announces stricter rules to prevent chemicals incidents

“It’s a win and a step forward.”

HOUSTON — On March 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published updates to its Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule with stricter regulations for chemical accident prevention.


The Coalition to Prevent Chemical disasters estimates that one chemical incident occurs every other day in the U.S and our previous reporting shows disproportionate impacts on Latino communities in Texas. Annually, the state has more chemical disasters than any other: 49 incidents in 2023, with the Houston-Galveston area accounting for 26 of them.

The updated regulations were proposed in August 2022 and signed on Feb. 27, 2024. Its stated goal is to “protect vulnerable communities from chemical accidents, especially those living near facilities in industry sectors with high accident rates,” according to the EPA. The Risk Management Plan rule published its first regulation in 1996, regulating nearly 12,000 facilities in the U.S. that manufacture, store or use hazardous chemicals.

To read a version of this story in Spanish click here. Haz clic aquí para leer este reportaje en español.

The new rule is a result of listening sessions by the EPA in which industry, advocates, scientists and fenceline residents voiced their concerns. According to the new rule, facilities handling hazardous materials must consider safer technologies and practices, and the possibility of events caused by climate change in their emergency management plans. When a chemical incident occurs, the facility will have to undergo third-party testing to find the root cause and what could have prevented it. Any disconnection or disabling of air monitors in an emergency would be in violation of this rule and must be reported to the EPA. As a result, backup power options must be explored to prevent lack of emissions readings in events that result in the loss of power.

In addition, to increase transparency about these facilities, the EPA has launched the RMP data tool in which the public can identify high-risk chemical facilities in their area.

“It’s information we’ve called for for decades now at this point,” Federal Policy director of the organization Coming Clean, Maya Nye, told Environmental Health News (EHN). “And I think that’s a huge win, because communities have a right to know what facilities and hazards are in [their] backyard.” Coming Clean is a network of 150 organizations across the country including advocacy groups, environmental health experts and researchers that advocate for safer chemical facilities.

At this moment, the tool has only launched in English.

“There is still room for improvement,” Nye said.

The Obama administration signed an executive order asking the EPA to update the RMP after the April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. The new requirements were issued in January 2017, just before the Trump administration took office. As a result, “key provisions were paused, and most never went into effect,” according to the EPA. In 2019, the Trump administration scaled back and removed measures proposed in the Obama rule.

Nye doesn’t believe it would be as easy to deregulate the rule if a new president took office in 2025.

“The reason why [the rule] was rolled back under the Trump administration… was because it happened so late in the Obama administration and that prompted a congressional review,” Nye said. “But for this time period, we are pretty sure the rule has gotten in more than enough time to not have to be considered the same way.”

Biden administration green-lights massive oil terminal
Credit: FracTracker Alliance/Flickr

Biden administration green-lights massive oil terminal, sparking backlash

The Biden administration has sanctioned a vast oil terminal off Texas, drawing ire from environmentalists.

Matthew Daly reports for the Associated Press.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less
Ocean temperatures continue to set daily records
Credit: Pexels/Pixabay

Ocean temperatures continue to set daily records

Record-breaking ocean temperatures are prompting scientists to explore underlying causes and potential impacts.

Delger Erdenesanaa reports for The New York Times.

Keep reading...Show less

Freshwater supplies dwindling due to human activity, studies find

Two significant studies reveal how human demand and technological advancements are rapidly depleting the planet's freshwater resources.

Andrew Nikiforuk reports for The Tyee.

Keep reading...Show less

Wild fish host new viruses, including a coronavirus cousin

Researchers have detected multiple new viruses in wild sport fish in Wisconsin, revealing a surprising diversity of pathogens.

Danielle Kaeding reports for Wisconsin Public Radio.

Keep reading...Show less
global health climate impacts
Credit: AlexMax/BigStock Photo ID: 18840950

Climate change impacts immune health globally, leading to an epidemic of diseases

The invisible effects of climate change are disrupting our bodies, notably our immune systems, by contributing to a surge in immune-mediated diseases like allergies and cancer.

Kari Nadeau reports for STAT.

Keep reading...Show less

Economic and environmental strain affects rural Mississippi amid renewable energy push

Economic challenges and environmental worries collide as Mississippi towns turn to the burgeoning wood pellet industry in a bid to revive local economies.

Alex Rozier reports for Mississippi Today.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
plastic treaty

Groups push Biden administration to take leadership role at upcoming plastic treaty talks

The US has taken a “middle of the road position” so far, environmental groups say.

chemical recycling Youngstown

Listen: Why communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are fighting chemical recycling plants

EHN reporter Kristina Marusic discusses her new three-part series on the controversies surrounding chemical recycling.

chemical recycling

Latest chemical recycling plant closing spurs concern over the industry’s viability

Oregon’s Regenyx plant announced its closing in late February, with those involved calling it a success, despite never reaching planned capacity and millions of dollars lost.

plastic treaty

Everything you need to know for the fourth round of global plastic pollution treaty talks

Countries will meet this month in Ottawa to move forward on the historic treaty — but obstacles remain.

zero waste business

Zero- and low-waste businesses band together against plastic pollution

As part of a national coalition, sustainable businesses are pooling resources to fight plastic pollution.

chemical recycling

Residents fear Pennsylvania, West Virginia chemical recycling proposals will deepen fossil fuel ties and pollution problems

"We’d like to be talking about positive things, focusing on our renewable energy future.”

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.