Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

Chemical Accidental Release and Prevention (Clean Air Act Section 112[r])

Chemical accidents can occur at businesses of any size. Many small businesses handle ammonia, chlorine, and other chemicals that could pose a risk to the surrounding community if an accident were to occur. Section 112(r) of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments sets forth a series of requirements aimed at preventing and minimizing the consequences of accidental chemical releases. These requirements are the basis of a rule on "Risk Management Programs for Chemical Accidental Release Prevention" promulgated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on June 20, 1996.

The rule applies to public and private facilities that manufacture, process, use, store, or otherwise handle regulated substances at or above specified threshold quantities ranging from 500–20,000 pounds. EPA estimates that approximately 66,000 facilities nationwide will be regulated under the rule. Some of these facilities are large, while a great number are small- to medium-sized, such as propane distributors and users, drinking water chlorination plants, and ammonia refrigeration facilities.

The rule requires all regulated facilities to prepare and execute a risk management program with the following:

  • A hazard assessment to determine the consequences of worst case and other accidental release scenarios on the public and the environment and a summary of the facility's 5-year history of accidental releases.
  • An accidental release prevention program designed to detect, prevent, and minimize accidental releases.
  • An emergency response program designed to deal with any accidental release to protect human health and the environment.
  • A risk management plan (RMP) that summarizes the facility's risk management program. This must be submitted to a central point to be designated by EPA. All RMPs will be made available to appropriate state and local agencies and the public.

Background on the Accidental Release Prevention Rule

The 1984 methyl isocyanate release in Bhopal, India, which killed over 2,000 people, and a subsequent chemical release in West Virginia, which hospitalized more than 100 people, increased the public's concern about the potential dangers of accidental releases of hazardous substances. As a result, the United States now has rules designed to prevent and protect people from accidental releases of hazardous compounds.

On June 20, 1986, EPA issued the Accidental Release Prevention Rule, as required by section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. This rule affects stationary sources ranging from chemical manufacturers and refineries to cold storage facilities and propane distributors. It requires owners or operators of affected facilities to evaluate the potential offsite hazards of accidental releases and develop and implement programs that prevent and minimize the consequences of these hazards.

Sources Impacted by Section 112(r)

The type and quantity of chemicals used, not the size of the company, determine whether an accidental release must be reported. Toxic and flammable chemicals (regulated substances) covered by this regulation include materials that many small businesses commonly use and store. The rule lists 77 toxic compounds and 63 flammable compounds and explosives. The rule affects public and private stationary sources that manufacture, store, or use any of these compounds at or above applicable threshold quantities, which range from 500–20,000 pounds. Examples of regulated substances are chlorine in excess of 2,500 pounds and ammonia in quantities over 10,000 pounds.

Farmers who use ammonia as a nutrient are exempt, as are those who store or sell propane for use as a fuel. EPA has delisted propane and is proposing to delist explosives, exempt gasoline for internal combustion engines, crude oil, and field gas.

Requirements of the Rule

 Businesses that handle, use, or store any of these substances above a certain quantity are required to develop a risk management program, then prepare and submit a written summary of the program to EPA. The summary is referred to as a risk management plan (RMP). EPA will make the RMP available through the Internet to the public and to state and local officials involved in planning for and responding to chemical emergencies in the area. In this way, people who live nearby and police and firefighters become aware of chemicals used by the business, potential hazards, and steps being taken to prevent accidents.

The rule requires applicable facilities to develop and implement safe business practices to identify hazards and manage risks. Businesses must analyze worst-case releases, document a 5-year history of serious accidents, coordinate with local emergency responders, and file a risk management plan with EPA. If an accidental chemical release could affect the public, the business also must analyze realistic scenarios and develop and implement a prevention program that includes identification of hazards, written operating procedures, training, maintenance, and accident investigation. If facility employees respond to accidental releases, the business also must implement an emergency response program.

EPA encourages businesses that are covered by the rule to contact the Emergency Planning and RMP Hotline at (800) 424-9346 to review the specific requirements that apply to various sources.

Good News: Many Businesses Already Do This!

The good news is that many businesses already are complying with many of these requirements because they are part of normal safety operations. Following is a list of programs and activities that may be required if normal safety operations do not already include them:

  • Employee training on operating procedures for equipment
  • Employee training on Material Safety Data Sheets to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Hazard Communication Standard
  • Maintenance and inspection of equipment and processes
  • Documentation of equipment specifications

Risk Management Programs

Affected facilities must develop and implement risk management programs. Program requirements are process-specific and are divided into Programs 1, 2, and 3. Program 1 contains the fewest requirements, while Program 3 contains the most. Some facilities may have processes in more than one program. Programs 1 and 2 will affect most small businesses.

Program Eligibility Requirements
1 Available to the following processes:
  • Have had no off-site accidental releases with off-site consequences in the past 5 years
  • Are located at facilities that have coordinated emergency response procedures with local emergency planning and response organizations
  • Will not adversely affect the public under the worse case scenario
  • Analyze the worst case scenario.
  • Complete a 5-year accident history.
  • Certify that response actions have been coordinated with local emergency planning and response agencies.
2 Applies to processes not subject to Programs 1 or 3
  • Analyze the worst case and alternative release scenarios.
  • Develop and implement a Program 2 or 3 accidental release prevention plan, an emergency response program, and a management system to oversee implementation of risk management program.

Applies to processes not eligible for Program 1 and the following:

  • In SIC codes 2611 (pulp mills), 2812 (alkalis and chlorine), 2819 (industrial inorganic chemicals), 2821 (plastics and resins), 2865 (cyclic crudes), 2869 (industrial organic chemicals), 2873 (nitrogenous fertilizers), 2879 (agricultural chemicals), or 2911 (petroleum refining) or
  • Subject to the OSHA process safety management standard
  • Analyze the worst case and alternative release scenarios.
  • Develop and implement a Program 3 accidental release prevention plan, an emergency response program, and a management system to oversee implementation of risk management program.

Staff Contacts

Air Quality Rules and Planning Coordinator
Carl Brown
DEQ State Office
Air Quality Division
1410 N. Hilton
Boise, ID 83706
(208) 373-0206

Risk Management Program Coordinator
Javier Morales
US EPA, Region 10
1200 Sixth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 553-1255

Emergency Response

US Region 10 24-Hour Emergency Response:
(206) 553-1263

National Response Center:
(800) 424-8802

More Information

Chemical Accident Prevention

Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule

Risk Managment Program

Related Pages

Emergency Response Overview