The overarching mission of New York City’s (NYC) Community Right to Know Law is to protect the general public, emergency response personnel, and private and public properties from exposure to hazardous substances that result from fires, spills, or accidental releases, as well as to assist emergency response personnel in the mitigation of fires, spills, or accidental releases from industrial, commercial, or public facilities that handle such substances. As part of the effort to execute this mission, certain information, such as chemical names, amounts stored, characteristics of the substances, methods of safe treatment, and potential health effects must be provided to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP). This information is needed to facilitate planning to prevent exposure to hazardous substances and to enable government inspectors to ensure compliance with other local environmental and public safety laws.

The Community Right to Know Law requires any facility that has extremely hazardous substances or regulated toxic substances at or above certain baseline quantities to prepare and submit a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to NYCDEP. These baseline quantities, known as threshold planning quantities (TPQ), are determined for each individual hazardous substance by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). In a situation where a substance is listed on both the extremely hazardous substances list and the regulated toxic substances list, the lower of the TPQ values shall be taken into consideration.  

Note that USEPA has a separate Risk Management Plan Rule established under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act Amendments.

Why is a RMP important?

A RMP documents that the activities of a facility are conducted in a manner such that the presence and the use of extremely hazardous substances do not pose a hazardous risk to the facility personnel or the local environment. The purpose of the RMP is to safeguard the surrounding communities, workers, and emergency response personnel from hazardous substances, extremely hazardous substances, and regulated toxic substances by minimizing the harm posed by a potential release of such substances.

The RMP also serves as a record-keeping database of any previous accidents that may have occurred at the facility. A record of previous accidents serves as a reference to guide the development of operational procedures incorporating higher standards of safety to reduce the possibility of future accidents.

A RMP is primarily divided into three elements:

  • Risk Assessment Program–Evaluates all equipment and operational procedures at a facility to determine the extent of risk posed to human health and the environment.
  • Risk Reduction Program–Recommends applicable alternative equipment and/or operational procedures at a facility which would minimize exposure to hazardous substances.
  • Emergency Response Program–Includes step-by-step strategies to manage emergencies that jeopardize the safety of personnel at the facility as well as the safety of the local community.

For whom is a RMP applicable?

A RMP applies to any facility that has extremely hazardous substances or regulated toxic substances at quantities that are equal to or exceed the TPQs. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Electroplating facilities
  • Automotive shops
  • Dry cleaners
  • Industrial and commercial businesses
  • Laboratories
  • Hospitals
  • Utilities

What happens if a RMP is not filed/improperly filed?

Any business that fails to file a required RMP or that fails to amend a RMP may be subject to penalties from NYCDEP as follows:

  • An amount between $250 and $2,500 for a first violation.
  • An amount between $1,750 and $5,000 for a second violation.
  • An amount between $3,750 and $10,000 for each subsequent violation.

Any business that makes any false statement, certification, or misrepresentation on a RMP would be subject upon conviction to a maximum fine of $1,000, imprisonment of up to one year, or both.

Does your facility work with hazardous substances? Are you unsure whether or not your facility requires a RMP? Walden’s team of environmental engineers can help you answer this question and (if necessary) prepare and file a RMP on behalf of your facility, in accordance with NYCDEP and/or USEPA guidelines. Please contact Walden Environmental Engineering at 516-588-6859 to learn more about your RMP filing requirements or any other aspects of the Community Right to Know Law.