Background on Worker and Union Involvement During Clean Air Act Section 112(r) Inspections

The New Jersey Work Environment Council, the state's labor-environmental partnership, explains the new policy from EPA to allow workers and their representatives to participate in inspections conducted under the Clean Air Act.

May 24, 2010

New Jersey Work Environment Council

Background on Worker and Union Involvement During Clean Air Act Section 112(r) Inspections

May 24, 2010

On April 2, 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued “Interim Guidance” for involving facility employees and employee representatives in EPA and delegated Agency on-site inspections conducted under Clean Air Act (CAA) section 112(r).

  • The CAA regulates more than 13,000 chemical plants, oil refineries, dairies, meatpackers, paper mills, drinking water and waste treatment facilities, refrigerated warehouses, fertilizer plants, electric utilities, etc. that use “extremely hazardous substances” in over “threshold” quantities.
  • The law requires management to develop “Risk Management Plans” and offsite consequence information and make them available to the public, employees, and unions. The RMP includes an analysis of potential hazards, a five-year accident history, and the emergency response program.
  • The policy is effective immediately. A final policy will be issued later this year.
  • EPA staff is to offer facility employees and employee representatives the opportunity to participate in facility inspections. EPA staff will use the OSHA Field Operations Manual (FOM) for reference. The FOM provides for union representation, in part, in the opening conference, during the accompaniment of the inspector, and in the closing conference.[1]
  • In nine states, state agencies enforce this law for EPA.[2]  EPA will request that these states (and a few local) agencies adopt similar procedures once EPA issues the final policy. This policy establishes a national precedent for expansion to other EPA programs so that workers and their unions can play even stronger roles protecting employees, communities, and environment.

[1] The OSHA Field Operations Manual is at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_02-00-148.pdf

[2] These states are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey (which already enforces the policy), North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and a few counties in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and North Carolina.