EPA Proposes Regulations to Plan for Hazardous Substance Discharges in Adverse Weather Conditions

March 15, 2022

Proposed plan considers increased risks of worst-case discharges from climate change and community impacts


Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new requirements for certain facilities to plan for worst-case discharges of Clean Water Act (CWA) hazardous substances. A worst-case discharge is the largest foreseeable discharge in adverse weather conditions, including those due to climate change. Facilities subject to the proposed rule are required to prepare response plans for worst-case discharges, or threat of such discharges, and submit them to EPA. This action advances the Agency’s goal of addressing climate change by appropriately adapting planning efforts.

“As climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, planning and preparedness for these incidents are especially important,” said Carlton Waterhouse, EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management. “This action will help protect the environment and public health from releases of Clean Water Act hazardous substances, particularly in communities with environmental justice concerns, which are disproportionately located in proximity to industrial facilities.”

The response plan requirements are an important tool for communities and first responders to ensure preparedness in the event of a worst-case discharge of hazardous substances. The proposed rule discusses the various components that comprise response plans, including hazard evaluation, personnel roles and responsibilities, response actions, and drills and exercises.

The proposed rule would apply to facilities that could reasonably be expected to cause substantial harm to the environment, based on their location. These include industrial facilities with a maximum capacity on site of any CWA hazardous substances that meets or exceeds established threshold quantities, located within a 0.5-mile radius of navigable water or a conveyance to navigable water, and that meet one or more substantial harm criteria.

The proposed action considers increased risks of worst-case discharges from climate change as well as impacts to communities with environmental justice concerns. Furthermore, the Agency is soliciting comment on additional strategies to take these concerns into account.

EPA is taking public comment on the proposed rule until 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov (Docket No.: EPA-HQ-OLEM-2021-0585).

For more information on the proposed rule, please click here.