The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acting on a request from several trade associations, including the oil and gas industry, issued a three-month stay of a rule designed to help prevent accidents and explosions at refineries and other industrial facilities.
Meanwhile, a key Democratic lawmaker in the Senate and the American Meteorological Society (AMS), in separate statements, took EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to task for his comment last week that he doesn't believe carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions contribute to climate change.
On Monday, EPA said Pruitt convened a meeting to reconsider final amendments to its Risk Management Program (RMP) rule, which was to take effect on March 21. The administrator then signed a rule delaying the effective date of the RMP rule amendments until June 19.
Both moves by Pruitt came after EPA received a petition from several trade associations -- collectively calling themselves the RMP Coalition -- at the end of February. The petition urged the agency to stay the RMP rule. The American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers were among the petition's signatories.
Among the issued raised by the RMP coalition, the petitioners said the RMP rule "raises significant security concerns and compliance issues that will cause irreparable harm to the Coalition members. The final rule, for example, compels facilities to make available sensitive information about covered processes that could expose vulnerabilities to terrorists and others who may target refineries, chemical plants and other facilities."
The RMP rule emerged in response to an executive order issued by President Obama following several industrial accidents, including an ammonium nitrate explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, TX, in April 2013.
EPA planned to finalize amendments to the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements for Risk Management Programs under the Section 112(r)(7) of the Clean Air Act. According to EPA, the amendments were intended to "address and improve accident prevention program elements [and] enhance emergency preparedness requirements." They were also designed to make sure first responders and the public had access to information explaining the risks at RMP facilities, which would help the former "better prepare for emergencies."
On March 2, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who chairs the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works (EPW), introduced a bill designed to invoke the Congressional Review Act (CRA) and block the RMP rule. The bill, SJ Res. 28, is still before the EPW Committee. A companion bill in the House, HJ Res. 59, was introduced on Feb. 1 by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and referred to the House Subcommittee on the Environment.
"This CRA resolution blocks an Obama administration midnight regulation that puts our chemical facilities, surrounding communities and our national security at risk, while doing nothing to actually improve safety," Inhofe said in a statement following his bill's introduction. "By requiring chemical facilities to disclose to the public the types and quantities of chemicals stored there and their security vulnerabilities, the EPA is giving a blueprint to those who would like to do us harm."
Carper, AMS rip Pruitt for CO2 comments
On Monday, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the ranking member of the EPW Committee, sent a letter to Pruitt criticizing him for stating in a television interview last week that he doesn't believe CO2 emissions are a primary contributor to climate change.
"Claiming CO2 is not a primary contributor to global warming is scientifically false and is in direct contradiction to your responses to scores of questions asked in the hearing and for the record by Democratic Senators during your confirmation process," Carper wrote. "This was precisely the type of denial of climate science and of the basis for the EPA's Endangerment Finding about which I and the other [EPW] Committee Democrats were concerned.
"Ignoring climate change, or the science underpinning it, will not make it go away; instead it will only make solving the problem even more difficult and expensive."
The AMS sent a similar letter to Pruitt on Monday.
"We understand and accept that individuals and institutions both public and private can reach differing conclusions on the decisions and actions to be taken in the face of this reality," the AMS said. "That's the nature of the political process in a democratic society.
"But mischaracterizing the science is not the best starting point for a constructive dialogue. We hope that you will reconsider your stance on the science, and then help lead the nation and the world to consider, first, options for action, and then the course to be followed."