New EPA Budget Boosts Funding for Community Safety and Chemical Hazard Enforcement

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget for FY 2017 was released to the public. The new budget contains funding increases that show the organization is interested in growing requirements around chemical safety at facilities that use or house hazardous chemicals.

The new budget — increased by $127 million from FY 2016, for a total of $8.267 billion — includes an increase of $8.4 million for its State and Local Prevention and Preparedness program. According to an EPA press release: “This increase will allow EPA to continue to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks of hazardous chemicals to facility workers and operators, communities, and responders.”

The EPA adds that it “will develop, initiate and deliver training to aid with expansive outreach and planning for local communities, emergency planners, and responders. This will assist local emergency planners and first responders in using the risk information available to them, educating the public about what to do if an accident occurs; and working effectively with facilities to reduce the risks associated with the chemicals that are stored, used, or produced on site.”

Elsewhere in the budget announcement, the EPA says it will be increasing funding to general chemical safety and pollution prevention by $56.4 million. According to the EPA, it intends to “expand the usage of computational tools, and increase and enhance the quality, accessibility, and usefulness of information about commercial chemicals [. . .] strengthening the capability of EPA, other regulators, and the public to assess chemical hazards and potential exposures, identify potential risks to human health and the environment and take appropriate risk management action.”

In a related statement on their website, the EPA spells out explicitly that these new FY 2017 investments in hazardous chemical safety are a direct attempt to support and bolster the 2013 presidential Executive Order 13650: Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.

With this increased emphasis on chemical safety — not just for the facilities where they are kept and used, but for the communities surrounding them — there’s never been a better time for companies using hazardous chemicals to invest in ways to provide the appropriate responders in their communities with quick, accurate access to chemical inventory information. When they have this information in advance, first responders and similar entities can better plan, prepare, and asses the risks associated with responding to emergencies involving hazardous chemicals. It’s also great in the eyes of the EPA, which calls for increasing data sharing and transparency in the year to come.

A great way to provide this transparency — and to keep workers and communities safe and informed — is with the Plan1 First Responder Share Service from MSDSonline. Plan1 allows companies to easily supply emergency response teams with quick and easy access to their unique site-based hazardous chemical inventory information in advance of an incident. This streamlined sharing of information helps first responders better assess, plan and prepare for the potential risks associated with emergencies. The service is available at no cost to first responders and free to current MSDSonline customers.

“We developed Plan1 as a tool to help safeguard both employees and first responders after observing extant gaps in the chemical hazard communication during emergency situations,” Mike Flynn, VP of product development & strategy at MSDSonline. “As the EPA emphasizes in their new budget, it expects more companies to use technology to facilitate chemical safety. Plan1 is a great way to do this, and to keep workers and communities safe.”

For more information on the EPA’s FY 2017 budget, you can visit the webpage here.  For more information on Plan1, you can visit the Plan1 website here.