Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Risk Managed? New Report Finds Chemical Disaster Risks from Climate Change. Image courtesy of,

Air Quality

Risk Managed? New Report Finds Chemical Disaster Risks from Climate Change

Originally published by Union of Concerned Scientists, The Equation.
By Rachel Cleetus, Policy Director

This week, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Earthjustice, and the Center for Progressive Reform released a policy brief estimating the risks posed by natural disasters to Risk Management Program (RMP) facilities and the surrounding communities.

There are thousands of industrial facilities throughout the United States that are storing, transporting, and utilizing chemicals that have the potential to be lethal, carcinogenic, or just generally harmful to human health. Our new analysis finds that many of these facilities face risks from natural disasters projected to become more severe with climate change. In the forests of California, on the coast of Louisiana and across the flood plains of the Midwest, facilities are at risk of fire, flooding, and other damage that could lead to dangerous chemicals leaking into air and soil and endanger surrounding communities, workers, and first responders.

First, some background

EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) was created as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments requiring certain facilities to develop plans to prevent leaks, spills, and other chemical disasters. Part of the regulation of these RMP sites is known as the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act or, more simply, the “Chemical Disaster Rule” which requires facilities to notify the surrounding communities of the chemicals being held in their facility and coordinate response to any potential chemical release. This aspect of the rule was rolled back in 2019 under the Trump administration such that hazardous facilities would no longer be required to take crucial steps to preventing chemical disasters such as exploring alternative technologies to decrease risk of disaster, pursuing third-party audits of their safety systems, or researching the ‘root causes’ of accidents after they occur.

It is vital that the Biden administration strengthen the RMP rule to include among other improvements, the requirement that climate change be considered in future RMPs to protect nearby communities. Currently, climate change is not among the required considerations for RMPs even though thousands of RMP facilities are located in areas known to experience fires, flooding, hurricanes, and other natural disasters that are projected to increase in both intensity and severity due to climate change.

The Report: Preventing ‘Double Disasters’

This week, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Earthjustice, and the Center for Progressive Reform have released a policy brief outlining the risks posed to RMPs and the surrounding communities by natural disasters and extreme weather, many of which are expected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change.

In this brief, we used data on which regions of the US are expected to experience climate-related natural disasters in the future to perform geospatial analysis to determine the number of current RMP facilities within these regions. This analysis allowed us to estimate the number of facilities at-risk of climate-related natural disasters.

The results from our analyses are shocking! Using data from USGS, USDA FWS, FEMA, and a previous UCS analysis on future flooding due to climate change, we estimate that 30% of RMP facilities are in areas prone to wildfires, inland flooding, coastal flooding, or storm surge from hurricanes.

Risk Managed? New Report Finds Chemical Disaster Risks from Climate Change

More detailed statistics and maps of at-risk RMP sites throughout the US can be found in the full policy brief.

To ensure that hazardous facilities are prepared for the impending effects of climate change, and the communities that live nearby are protected we recommended that the Biden administration take some of the following actions:

  • Formally engage workers in facility preparedness and response planning
  • Continue fenceline monitoring with public access to sampling data and timely community alerts
  • Adopt RMP eligibility criteria to expand coverage to climate and natural disaster-vulnerable communities
  • Prioritize enforcement resources to address heightened risks due to natural disasters and climate change.
  • Bolster regulatory action with the Administration’s broader investment in climate, equity, and infrastructure spending and policy making


Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Written By

We publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people, organizations, agencies, and companies.


You May Also Like


PR100 Update Provides Early Scenarios to Help Increase Renewable Energy Capabilities That Meet Electricity Demand, Improve Grid Reliability and Resilience, and Lower Energy Costs

Climate Change

The portal will help improve America’s preparedness for future climate extremes.

Climate Change

As Hurricane Fiona made landfall as a Category 1 storm in Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, 2022, some areas of the island were inundated...

Clean Transport

In a study from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in collaboration with consulting firm Evolved Energy Research (EER) and an expert advisory committee, we...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.