The final rule increases coordination with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) to enhance local emergency preparedness and response planning by requiring facilities to conduct annual coordination with LEPCs or local emergency response officials to clarify response needs, emergency plans, roles, and responsibilities. Instances of poor coordination between RMP facilities and local planners and responders have been identified by States, local communities, and first responders to EPA and by U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) in accident investigations. States and locals have indicated that some RMP facilities do not adequately engage in meaningful coordination with LEPCs and local emergency responders, leaving the local planners and responders unaware of, or unprepared for, the chemical risks associated with the facility.
The lack of good coordination between facilities and responders can result in increased risk to responders due to inadequate situational awareness, confusion as to who has the lead responsibilities, inadequate or lack of equipment, insufficiently trained personnel arriving on site and ultimately, potential fatalities/injuries. For example, following the August 2008 explosion and fire at the Bayer CropScience facility in Institute, West Virginia, the CSB found that lack of effective coordination between facility and local responders prevented responding agencies from receiving timely information updates about the continually changing conditions at the scene, prevented a public shelter-in-place order from reaching the local community, and may have resulted in toxic exposure to on-scene public emergency responders.
In response to several commenters that supported regular meetings with local authorities, EPA requires qualifying facility owners or operators to request an opportunity to meet with the local emergency planning committee (or equivalent) and/or local fire department, but is not requiring a meeting to be held if local authorities determine that a meeting is not required. In addition, EPA is requiring the owner or operator to consult with local emergency response official to establish appropriate frequencies and plans for tabletop and field exercises.
Qualifying facilities must develop an emergency response plan, develop procedures for the use, inspection, and testing of emergency response equipment, conduct training for employees in relevant procedures, and update the emergency response plan to reflect changes at the facility.
The final rule modifies the emergency response plan provision that requires the plan to include procedures for informing the public and local emergency response agencies about accidental releases, to also require these procedures to inform appropriate Federal and state emergency response agencies about accidental releases. This provision will be complementary to notification requirements under EPCRA and CERCLA, however the lists of regulated substances and notification triggers are not identical.
EPA had originally proposed to require the owner or operator to review and update the emergency response plan annually, or more frequently if necessary, to incorporate recommendations and lessons learned from emergency response exercises, incident investigations, or other available information. Several commenters stated that annual updates are unnecessary. Taking into consideration the comments received, the final rule requires the owner or operator to review and update the emergency response plan as appropriate based on changes at the facility or new information obtained from coordination activities, emergency response exercises, incident investigations, or other available information, and ensure that employees are informed of the changes.