The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has officially postponed the effective date of a rule designed to help prevent accidents and explosions at refineries and other industrial facilities.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a final rule to delay the effective date of amendments to its Risk Management Program (RMP) rule until Feb. 19, 2019. The rule was originally planned to take effect next Monday (June 19).

“We are seeking additional time to review the program, so that we can fully evaluate the public comments raised by multiple petitioners and consider other issues that may benefit from additional public input,” Pruitt said Monday.

According to the EPA, the delay will provide “an additional 20 months to allow the agency to conduct a reconsideration proceeding and to consider other issues that may benefit from additional comment…[and] allow the agency time to evaluate the RMP amendments.”
The agency “will consider the relevant questions and concerns submitted to the agency through multiple petitions and other comments received during the public comment period and public hearing.”

Last March, Pruitt, acting on a request from several trade associations, including the oil and gas industry, issued a three-month stay of the RMP amendments. By month’s end, Pruitt had signed a proposed rule to delay their implementation.

Several trade associations, collectively calling themselves the RMP Coalition, sent Pruitt a petition at the end of February, urging a stay. 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 issues 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 amendments would make changes to the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements for Risk Management Programs under the Section 112(r)(7) of the Clean Air Act. They 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.