Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
Purpose and Organization
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), enacted on October 17, 1986, represents a significant first step toward a major federal role in areas previously regulated by state and local governments. EPCRA was enacted by Congress as a stand-alone provision, Title III, of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA).
Title III was passed in response to concerns regarding the environmental and safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. These concerns were triggered by the disaster in Bhopal, India, in which more than 2,000 people suffered death or serious injury from the accidental release of methyl isocyanate. To reduce the likelihood of such a disaster in the United States, Congress imposed requirements on both states and regulated facilities. Facilities must notify the local emergency planning districts regarding materials stored at and released from sites.
The emergency planning aspect requires local communities to prepare plans to deal with emergencies relating to hazardous substances. The community right-to-know aspect creates new rights for members of the public and local governments to obtain information concerning potential threats in their neighborhoods involving hazardous substances. Thus, EPCRA provides the tools for local governments and members of the community to make their own decisions regarding hazardous materials in their communities.
EPCRA contains three subtitles. Subtitle A, Emergency Planning and Notification, establishes mechanisms to enable states and communities to prepare to respond to unplanned releases of hazardous substances.
Subtitle B, Reporting Requirements, contains three distinct reporting provisions concerning two different groups of chemical substances. The first two sets of reports require submission of inventory-related data on hazardous chemicals [i.e., those substances for which a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is mandated under the hazard communication regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration]. The third reporting provision requires annual reporting to EPA and the state in which the reporting facility is located on environmental releases of listed toxic chemicals manufactured, processed, or otherwise used at the facility in excess of specified threshold quantities.
Subtitle C, General Provisions, contains a variety of provisions, including, but not limited to, civil, criminal, and administrative penalties for violations of the statute's reporting requirements; enforcement actions that can be brought by citizens, states, and emergency planning and response entities; and restrictions on an owner's or operator's rights to make trade secrecy claims in the reports required by EPCRA.
Requirements for Affected Facilities
Appendix A of 40 CFR 355 defines extremely hazardous substances. Any DOE facility that manages any such substances in quantities exceeding the Threshold Planning Quantities noted in the appendix must comply with EPCRA.
Under 40 CFR 355 facilities must notify the emergency response commission that they are subject to these requirements. The facilities must notify the local emergency planning unit of releases exceeding a Reportable Quantity (RQ) of Extremely Hazardous Substances, as defined under Title III, and Hazardous Substances, as defined under CERCLA. In addition, the facilities must report their chemical inventories and provide MSDSs to the local emergency planning organizations as outlined in 40 CFR 370. DOE voluntarily complies with these provisions.
EPCRA was amended in April 1996 by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-134). This statute mandates a ten percent increase in the maximum civil and administrative fines for violations of EPCRA beginning on January 31, 1997. EPA published a final rule announcing these increases (as well as increases in fines and penalties under other statutes) on December 31, 1996 (61 FR 69360). Technical corrections to this final rule were published on March 20, 1997 (62 FR 13514).
Executive Order 12856
Executive Order (E.O.) 12856, Federal Compliance with Right-to-Know Laws and Pollution Prevention Requirements (published August 6, 1993, 58 FR 41981), directs federal agencies and their facilities to comply with the provisions of EPCRA. Thus, all DOE facilities, including national laboratories, research facilities, power administrations, and petroleum reserves, are potential reporters under EPCRA, if they meet any reporting thresholds. Please click here to view a copy of E.O. 12856.
Regulations implementing EPCRA are found in Title 40 of the CFR, Sections 350, 355, 370, and 372.
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