Written by Steve Hudgik
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) is commonly known as SARA Title III. SARA is commonly known as the "Super Fund," and has the official name: Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act. SARA is the federal government's program to clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act created requirements for Federal, state and local governments, Indian Tribes, and industry concerning emergency planning and "Community Right-to-Know" reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals that are present locally.
The EPCRA law was passed in 1986 in response to concerns about the environmental and safety hazards that come from from the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. These concerns were triggered by a chemical gas leak in Bhopal, India in 1984. More than 3,900 people were seriously injured or died as a result of the accidental release of methyl isocyanate. EPCRA implements planning, information and preparation requirements aimed at reducing the likelihood of such a disaster in the United States.
To accomplish these goals the EPCRA establishes ongoing "forums" at the local level. These are called Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC). The LEPCs are governed by the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) in each state. The objective is to have a broad representation by fire fighters, health officials, government and media representatives, community groups, industrial facilities, and emergency managers. This will ensure that everyone affected by a chemical release is involved in the planning process.
Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, SERCs and LEPCs are charged with four primary responsibilities:
There are four major provisions of EPCRA:
Local governments are required to prepare chemical emergency response plans, and to review those plans at least annually. State governments are required to oversee and coordinate the local planning efforts. Facilities that maintain Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHSs) on-site in quantities greater than the corresponding Threshold Planning Quantities (TPQs) must cooperate in emergency plan preparation.
Facilities must immediately report accidental releases of EHS chemicals and "hazardous substances" in quantities greater than corresponding Reportable Quantities (RQs) defined under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to state and local officials. Information about accidental chemical releases must be available to the public.
Facilities manufacturing, processing or storing designated hazardous chemicals must make Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) available to state and local officials and local fire departments. Facilities must also report, to state and local officials and local fire departments, inventories of all on-site chemicals for which MSDSs exist. Information about chemical inventories at facilities and MSDSs must be available to the public.
Facilities must complete and submit a Toxic Chemical Release Inventory Form annually for each of the more than 600 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals that are manufactured or otherwise used at levels above the applicable threshold quantities.
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