The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) is a federal law passed by the United States Congress in October 1986. The law was spurred by international and national accidental chemical releases that resulted in deaths and serious illnesses in the immediate and surrounding areas. The most infamous incident was the release of methyl isocyanate at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India in December of 1984, which killed 3,800 people. In response to that event and others, EPCRA was passed in order to prevent a similar disaster in the United States.
EPCRA contains four main responsibilities for facilities with chemical use and storage:
- Section 301 to 303, Emergency Planning - these sections require local governments to prepare chemical emergency response plans, and to review those plans at least annually in order to be prepared for a chemical emergency in their jurisdiction
- Section 304, Emergency Notification - this section requires facilities to immediately report accidental releases of EHSs and hazardous substances to local officials and the state. Further reporting may be required as well. These reporting requirements provide the government with the ability to ensure the protection of human health and the environment in the spill clean-up.
- Section 311 and 312, Community Right-to-Know Requirements - these sections require facilities that store any hazardous chemicals to submit their corresponding safety data sheets (SDSs) to the state, local officials, and their local fire department. If a facility’s chemicals are over defined thresholds, facilities are also required to submit an inventory report for those chemicals to the same officials. This information is used to give the government the information to prepare for the possibility of a chemical emergency at the facility.
- Section 313, Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) - this section requires facilities to complete and submit an inventory of toxic chemical releases to the environment. This report is due annually.
Tier II, also known as the Community Right-to-Know requirements, is housed under section 312. This section requires a facility to submit an annual inventory of hazardous chemicals onsite that surpass the threshold (federally mandated but can be superseded by your state or local requirements) to the facility’s State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and the local fire department.