March 1, 2022 is still in the distance. In environmental compliance circles, of course, March 1 is the due date every year for EPCRA Tier II reporting. While most of us in this profession have felt the stress of submitting Tier II reports at the 11th hour, it doesn’t have to be this way thanks to technology.
Unfortunately we can’t change the date EPCRA Tier II reports are due. But we can suggest a start date to begin collecting information, reviewing it, and preparing your reports for submission. That date is today, or tomorrow, or ASAP. The sooner the better. Because preparing for Tier II reporting has become a year-round mission.
The date to start is today, or tomorrow, or ASAP.
The sooner the better.
To make your Tier II submissions easier next March, here are some activities you can complete now. We’ve also listed some other helpful resources, particularly from the EPA, to guide you along the journey. And as always, our Customer Success team is ready to help — all year round.
Since 2017, Encamp has worked with 200+ businesses to manage more than 5,000 of their facilities and track over 20,000 compliance dates. These numbers make us the largest filer of EPCRA Tier II reports in the country.
Manage EPCRA compliance year round
With the end-to-end Encamp platform and its EPCRA module, our customers make Tier II reporting and environmental compliance faster, easier, and more accurate. They even submit their final Tier II reports to all required agencies via Encamp. But mostly, their business gets a single pane of glass to manage each facet of Tier II reporting and manage EPCRA compliance year round — and say farewell to annual fire drills for 312 reporting or missed 302 notifications.
EPCRA, in full, is the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The United States Congress passed EPCRA and its various EPCRA Sections as a federal law in October 1986. The law was a response to multiple accidental chemical releases that had recently occurred worldwide.
One of the most tragic incidents was the release of methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India. The release, which occurred in December 1984, killed 3,800 people. Others in the immediate and surrounding areas suffered serious illnesses. In response, Congress passed EPCRA to prevent a similar disaster in the United States.
EPCRA entails four core responsibilities for chemical use and storage, classified by Sections. These EPCRA Sections apply to all regulated facilities within a local jurisdiction.
EPCRA Tier II is housed under EPCRA Section 312. For regulated facilities, EPCRA Section 312 Tier II requirements dictate that they submit an annual inventory of hazardous chemicals onsite that surpass a stated quantity threshold. Thresholds are federally mandated, but can be superseded by state or local requirements. Inventories are submitted to the facility’s State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and the local fire department.
The details of EPCRA Tier II reporting can get murky. And often confusing. Encamp’s VP of Compliance and Customer Success breaks down the key aspects EPCRA Tier II reporting requirements here to help your business comply with total confidence.
On the federal level, any regulated facility in the U.S. that stores or handles more than 10,000 pounds of hazardous chemicals must submit an annual Tier II inventory report. Facilities storing or handling an Extremely Hazardous Substance (EHS) of 500 pounds or its Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ, whichever is lower) are also required to submit the annual Tier II inventory.
As defined by the EPA, hazardous chemicals are “substances for which a facility must maintain a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard.” This standard establishes the criteria used to identify a hazardous chemical. OSHA defines a hazardous chemical as any chemical that can “cause a physical or health hazard.” Common chemicals that many facilities store on-site, such as antifreeze, ethanol, diesel fuel, and propane, are subject to this reporting.
While EHSs have a general threshold of 500 pounds, thresholds can be lower for specific substances dependent on the TPQ published for the chemical. TPQs are based on “acute mammalian toxicity and potential for airborne dispersion and represent those quantities of substances that can cause significant harm should an accidental release occur.” See the list of EHSs and their corresponding TPQs in Appendix A of the EPA’s List of Lists. There are many common chemicals considered to be EHSs that might surprise you. Examples include anhydrous ammonia, sulfuric acid, formaldehyde, and hydrogen peroxide (if the concentration is over 52%).
Retail gas and diesel stations share a common EHS threshold exemption. Higher thresholds apply for retail gas and diesel stations if their fuel storage tanks are located entirely underground, and if the tanks are in compliance with all applicable underground storage tank (UST) requirements set by the federal, state, and local government. For a retail gas station, the threshold for gasoline is 75,000 gallons and the threshold for diesel is 100,000 gallons. (Read more on exemptions and relaxed thresholds in our associated blog on Hazardous Chemical Inventories.)
Based on the EPCRA Tier II reporting requirements we’ve detailed thus far, you’ve determined that your facility is required to report under EPCRA. So what’s the next step?
Under Section 311 of EPCRA, for hazardous chemicals stored onsite at or above the thresholds, facilities must submit SDSs to their State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs), and local fire department. Unless your state or local government determines otherwise, submitting an SDS for a hazardous chemical is required just once; thereafter, SDSs are required only for new chemicals stored or handled at a facility.
On an annual basis, regulated facilities are required to submit an inventory of the chemicals that meet the definition of a hazardous chemical and exceed the defined reporting threshold. By law, EPCRA Tier II forms are due on March 1 each year.
Of note, while the EPA has published a generic EPCRA Tier II form to submit inventory reports, each state in the U.S. has developed its own version of the form. Some states naturally require state-specific requirements on their Tier II form. They also require the information to be submitted online through the state’s own portal or via email. Otherwise, the EPA and state agencies request the same core information for EPCRA Tier II reporting, including facility information (address, NAICS code, number of occupants, etc.) and contact information (emergency contact, owner/operator contact, and Tier II contact).
In addition to general facility information, Tier II forms also sometimes request other facility specific questions. For example, if your facility is subject to the Risk Management Program (RMP) through the EPA, you’ll need to indicate that and provide your facility’s RMP ID#.
The chemical inventory section of an EPCRA Tier II form is much more detailed. To ensure compliance, you must provide the following information on the hazardous chemicals you’re reporting:
Several states request more information beyond these requirements. For example, Maine requires the mode of shipment for a hazardous chemical, the frequency of shipment, maximum capacity per single vessel, average shipment quantity, and other shipping criteria. In another example, Ohio requests the total number of EHS and hazardous chemicals to be included in its EPCRA Tier II report.
Along with the chemical inventory information, some states additionally require you to submit facility site plans. Such plans show where chemicals are stored in the facility, and where emergency exits, fire extinguishers, and nearest water source are located. Site plans are crucial for first responders who need to know these details before they enter a facility in an emergency situation. Check with your state to see if a facility plan is required as part of your EPCRA Tier II submission, what needs to be on the plan, and the file format it should be in.
Once required Tier II reporting information and documents are uploaded to a state’s reporting portal, several states require facilities to pay a filing fee per report. Fee amounts vary based on a state’s criteria. For instance, states including Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania bill your facility per each chemical being reported. Other states, like New Jersey, bill the facility by the number of employees. Many state portals accept payment of the fees directly, whereas other states send your facility a bill and require you to pay by check or credit card. Depending on your state, the LEPCs may charge fees as well.
When is all of this information and documentation due? Again, the annual Tier II report is due March 1, which is the deadline set federally. All 50 states follow this deadline except for specific jurisdictions in California. California is divided into Certified Unified Program Agencies, or CUPAs for short. Some CUPAs require this information to be submitted at different times during the year. Also in New Jersey, public and private entities have different due dates. For the most part, states require the information before March 1. If your information is submitted late or not submitted at all, you could be subject to enforcement actions or fines.
Lead-acid batteries are known to break from time to time. When they do, and the electrolyte begins to leak from its casing, you’ll need to know how to react immediately and what the next steps are.
EPCRA Section 304 is the Emergency Release Notification section of EPCRA. You are subject to this rule if your facility “produces, uses, or stores a hazardous chemical” and you “release a reportable quantity (RQ) of any EHS or of a hazardous substance as defined by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) at your facility.”
Sulfuric acid is the main chemical of concern in regards to 304 notifications. The RQs for 304 notifications are listed in Appendices A and B and also on the List of Lists. For sulfuric acid, the RQ is 1,000 pounds. It may be hard to quantify the total gallons or pounds of the spill, but if the battery shell is left with only the plates inside, you can work backwards to determine if the spill has exceeded the RQ based the percentage of sulfuric acid on the SDS.
Once you’ve determined that the spill has exceeded the RQ and you are subject to 304, what’s the next step?
The federal regulations state that you must notify the “SERC and LEPC of any area(s) that are likely to be affected by the release.” If the substance is also listed on the CERLCA list, the National Response Center (NRC) must be notified as well. The NRC’s report hotline number is (800)424-8802. EPA has also published a list of State Contact Information for 304 Notifications, which you can find here.
EPA’s website states you must include the following information. Check with your state as well, in case they require additional information.
The regulations say that gathering this information should not impede the notification on emergency response. If you have hazardous chemicals at your facility, it’s best to prepare for this type of notification well ahead of a spill. Many facilities choose to post this information by a facility phone or in an accessible area so the information can be gathered quickly. The immediate notification should be conducted orally, over the phone.
After the initial notification is made and the release has been contained, a follow-up written report must be submitted to the SERC and LEPC. Unless this event occurred during transportation or from storage incident to transportation, the written follow-up must be submitted as soon as practicable. In the written notice, you must provide and update the information that was reported in the immediate notification and include the following additional information:
Source: 40 CFR 355.40(8)(b)
EPA does not have a prescribed format for this notification, and only states that it should be written. Check with your SERC to see if they have a required or preferred format. For example, Indiana requires the 304 follow-up notification to be submitted via their Tier II Manager portal. Some states, like Texas, have issued a timeframe for the follow-up notification.
In the midst of notifying the appropriate parties and keeping everyone safe, cleaning up the spill is another task you’ll need to complete to mitigate the situation. Most SDSs provide cleanup information in case of a spill or release, so be sure to check those well in advance. It’s recommended to have the proper PPE and spill kit items handy in case of an emergency, so you can clean up the spill quickly. Some items that you may need to clean up the spill are:
When the absorbed acid and cleanup material are packaged up into a bucket or drum, be sure to label it appropriately. If the acid was neutralized, it’s possible the waste can be considered non-hazardous, but be sure to do your due diligence with analysis, if necessary. If the acid wasn’t neutralized and just absorbed, the waste can be considered hazardous depending on your state’s regulations. For instance, California considers any solid when mixed with an equivalent weight of water that produces a liquid that corrodes steel at a rate greater than 6.35 mm per year to be hazardous.
Once packaged and properly labeled, work with your hazardous waste contractor to pick up the containers for disposal. The broken lead-acid battery casing might be able to be salvaged. Most hazardous waste treatment companies have contracts with lead-acid battery recyclers, so they can arrange for recycling if it’s possible.
There are two ways of reporting lead-acid batteries for Tier II reporting, according to the EPA. Some states have published guidance on how they expect lead-acid batteries to be reported. Here are couple state sources:
EPA’s recommended approach states that a facility should be consistent in reporting between 311 (SDS Reporting) and 312 (Chemical Inventory Reporting). EPA also states that the submission of the Tier II form can be used for 311 purposes for hazardous chemicals brought on site between October 1 and December 31, but confirm with your SERC and LEPC. For 311, when a new chemical is brought or produced on site and it exceeds its threshold, facilities must submit the SDS of the chemical to their SERC, LEPC, and local fire department within 3 months. For lead-acid batteries, the SDSs generally combine all components of the battery into one SDS. This may differ if you manufacture, refill, recycle, or provide maintenance on lead-acid batteries at your facility. If that’s the case, you may have the bulk ingredients on site and therefore have different SDSs per ingredient. For the general use case, facilities will submit SDSs for the entire lead-acid battery to comply with 311. And based on EPA’s guidance mentioned above, reporting between 311 and 312 should be consistent and therefore reporting on the battery, not the components. However, if lead-acid batteries are not the only source of sulfuric acid at your facility, it may make sense to report sulfuric acid aggregated across all forms.
When reporting lead-acid batteries as a mixture, be sure to include physical and health hazards associated with every mixture component listed on the SDS. Depending on what state your facility is in and what reporting system they have chosen to use, you may have to report the overall mixture as an EHS or the mixture component (sulfuric acid, in this case) as an EHS.
If you’re required to use EPA’s Tier2 Submit software to file your Tier II report, here is what your lead-acid battery will look like reported as a mixture.
EHS is marked as Yes because they require the overall chemical to be marked as an EHS if one of the mixture components is an EHS.
If your SERC uses E-plan for submissions, the system will require the overall chemical to be marked as an EHS, just like Tier2 Submit. Below is an excerpt from their instructions.
Tier II Manager
If your SERC (or LEPC) uses Tier II Manager as their portal, you will have the option of indicating that the lead-acid batteries contain an EHS and that is exceeds the TPQ. Below is a screenshot from a PDF report out of Tier II Manager.
If you decide to report the sulfuric acid separately, the reporting is a little more straightforward. Since sulfuric acid is an EHS, you will simply check the EHS box on whichever system your SERC uses.
Once the lead-acid batteries are on site, and you have made the appropriate notification to the SERC and LEPC to satisfy 302 requirements, the next step is to determine whether or not you have to report lead-acid batteries (or their components) under Sections 311 and 312, or the Hazardous Chemical Inventory Reporting Requirements.
Section 311 and 312 requires any facility with chemicals in quantities that equal or exceed the following thresholds must report:
Before we dive into how to report the batteries, let’s take a look at a typical SDS for a lead-acid battery. Most SDSs will break out the components like the below excerpt:
The main components are lead and/or lead oxide and the electrolyte (sulfuric acid and water). The other components should be reviewed as well, however neither antimony or polypropylene are listed in Appendix A and B, so the general threshold of 10,000 pounds would apply to them if you’re reporting by component (unless your state has specific thresholds). Lead and/or lead oxide is not listed as an EHS in Appendix A or B either, and therefore does not need to be aggregated across different sources of lead per EPA’s guidance document here. Primarily, sulfuric acid will be the chemical used to determine if you must report because of the TPQ. For sulfuric acid, the TPQ listed in Appendix A/B is 1,000 pounds. Therefore, the lower threshold of 500 pounds should be used.
To calculate whether or not the battery(s) you have on site exceed the TPQ or 500 pounds (whichever is lower), you will need the total weight of the battery. For this calculation, let’s assume the battery weighs 60 pounds. To calculate the total amount of sulfuric acid in the battery, you will multiply the weight (60 pounds) by the percentage of sulfuric acid (44%). The result is 26.4 pounds of sulfuric acid.
60 lbs x .44 = **26.4 pounds**
Generally, one battery will not push you over the threshold unless it’s very large. Let’s say you have 20 of these batteries though because you’re using them to power forklifts on site and you always have batteries on the charging station. In that situation, you would take the 26.4 pounds of sulfuric acid and multiply it by the number of batteries you have on site which is 20.
26.4 pounds of sulfuric acid x 20 batteries = **528 pounds of sulfuric acid**
In this situation, the amount of batteries you have on site have exceeded the threshold and you are required to report the sulfuric acid as an EHS.
Lead-acid batteries are a commonly used device to power cars, powered industrial trucks, i.e. forklifts or lift trucks, and serve as backup power sources to cell towers. Generally, these batteries are comprised of lead based plates that sit in a bath of sulfuric acid and water, which is called electrolyte. Lead-acid batteries are commonly used to power so many different devices and vehicles because of their ability to be recharged and their low cost. We’ll walk you through bringing a lead-acid battery on site at your facility and what reporting is involved. We’ll also walk you through handling damaged lead-acid batteries, in case of a spill or broken battery.
When a new chemical is brought on site, there are several regulations to consider that can trigger additional requirements for your facility and organization. One of those regulations is the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). EPCRA’s purpose is to encourage local committees and states to plan for emergencies caused by potential chemical hazards that are present in their communities. In order for the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC)and the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) to become aware of these chemical hazards, facilities are required to report certain chemicals above a threshold to these entities. Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHSs) are of particular concern. These are chemicals that “could cause serious irreversible health effects from accidental releases,” defined by the EPA. EPA publishes a list of EHSs in Appendix A & B. Sulfuric acid is listed on the list of EHSs with a Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ) of 1,000 pounds. The TPQ is threshold for which a facility must determine if they need to report an EHS to their SERC and LEPC.
Because lead-acid batteries are generally considered a mixture, the amount of sulfuric acid needs to be aggregated across all batteries and other sources of sulfuric acid. Once the 1,000 pounds threshold is hit, federal EPCRA rules state that the notification to the SERC and LEPC must be made within 60 days after a shipment is receive or it’s produced on site. The federal regulations state that the following information must be submitted to the SERC and/or LEPC:
The format to submit the above information is not specified by the EPA. The format varies based on what SERC and LEPC your facility must coordinate with.
SERCs and LEPCs are changing or updating their Tier II reporting requirements usually on an annual basis. The federal EPCRA program moves at a much slower pace. There have been some updates in the past few years that are worth highlighting.
Reporting your facility’s chemicals for Tier II can be a confusing task. Depending on your inventory, you may have difficulty with mixtures, lead acid batteries, or understanding your state requirements and using their portal. To help with your Tier II reporting efforts, we tackle each one of these here.
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding mixtures and how to report them in a Tier II scenario. Do you report each chemical separately within the mixture? Or should you report the mixture as its own chemical? EPA guidance recommends two methods:
The following examples are from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ):
In the example here, the mixture X-Chem weighs 20,000 lbs. and contains 20% of the hazardous chemical “Chemical A”, which is listed as an EHS, and 80% water:
According to EPA Guidance for Tier II, whichever way is chosen to report mixtures, the manner must be consistent between Section 311 Reporting and Section 312 Reporting.
The batteries in powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts and man lifts, contain lead and sulfuric acid. According to OSHA, they are a hazardous chemical because of the “potential to emit hydrogen gas which, upon ignition, may result in a fire or explosion.” The batteries do not fall under the article exemption either because they “have the potential to leak, spill, or break during normal conditions of use, including foreseeable emergencies,” according to the EPA’s memorandum on reporting these batteries. Because of this, it’s important for Tier II purposes to review how many batteries your facility stores and uses to determine if they exceed the threshold.
In the eyes of the EPA, lead-acid batteries are considered a mixture of sulfuric acid and lead. If you take a look at the safety data sheet (SDS) for a lead-acid battery, it generally contains between 40-75% lead (or lead compounds) and 20-45% sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is listed as an EHS chemical with a TPQ of 1,000 pounds. Therefore, the threshold would default to the 500 pounds threshold because it is an EHS. Lead-acid batteries can weigh anywhere from 39 pounds to upwards of 4,000 pounds. Because of the 500 pound threshold for sulfuric acid, facilities with even just one battery may be required to report. If your facility has several smaller batteries onsite, the amount of sulfuric acid in each battery needs to be aggregated with all sulfuric acid on-site to determine if that threshold has been met or exceeded.
For Tier II reporting, once you’ve determined whether the threshold for sulfuric acid has been reached, you may report the battery as a mixture or you can report the sulfuric acid separately as an EHS. However, the regulations state that “reporting a mixture, such as the batteries, under both sections 311 and 312 must occur in the same manner, where practicable.” Most battery manufacturers publish SDSs for their batteries as a mixture, rather than the individual components. However, if you’re replenishing the electrolyte or manufacturing batteries, then it may make sense to report as individual components. Some states have released guidance on reporting lead acid batteries, so double check with your facility’s state program prior to reporting these.
Many oil and gas companies and manufacturers have several types of oils and oil-based products on-site. There is a lot of confusion out there, on whether these need to be aggregated across the facility or not. The EPA has published guidance on this, which states that there are two ways to determine if aggregation of hazardous chemicals makes sense.
First, it’s recommended to review your products in question and review their SDSs. A facility can have two or more SDSs for chemicals onsite. For example, a facility can receive multiple SDSs for essentially the same material, but its provided by different suppliers. If the mixtures are represented by SDSs that are identical in composition and physical and health hazards, these mixtures can most likely be aggregated to determine if they exceed the threshold. If however, “two or more chemical combinations are represented by different SDSs and present different physical or health hazards, they would not be aggregated for §§311/312 purposes.”
The determination to aggregate similar hazardous chemicals is generally left up to the owner and operator (or their authorized representative) to make that call.
For EHSs, EPA has stated that these chemicals must be aggregated across mixtures and pure chemicals. For an example, if your facility has several lead acid batteries on-site, the sulfuric acid in each of those must be aggregated to determine if you have more than 500 pounds. If you also have pure sulfuric acid that’s used in a separate process, you will have to account for that when aggregating. If an EHS is present in a mixture over 1%, it must be accounted for in your calculations for the total EHS present on-site, regardless of what container the chemical is in. This may require you to examine reaction vessels, piping, and other process components.
Another common issue with Tier II reporting is determining what your state requires for reporting and how the state wants to receive that information. States like California, Louisiana, and New Jersey have thresholds that differ from the federal thresholds. Many states require additional information on the chemicals and the facilities that report. Contact your State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) or visit their website to find out their specific requirements.
On top of the varying thresholds and specific state requirements, there are several ways that the chemical inventory can be submitted to your state. Check out the below map to see what ways your state(s) require this information to be submitted. Many states require you to complete the report through Tier2 Submit. Tier2 Submit is software that EPA developed to help eliminate the paper reporting burden. The software must be downloaded each year onto your computer in order to use it. The software is normally updated in November of the year prior. Tier2 Submit doesn’t actually submit the information to your facility’s SERC, LEPC, or Fire Department though, despite its name. Most SERCs require you to download the information from Tier2 Submit and submit the file through email, their own portal, or even on a CD/SD and mail it to the SERC.
Other states have opted to use a full reporting and submittal platform like Tier II Manager. Several states like Indiana, Delaware, Oregon, and Nevada have all adopted Tier II Manager as their portal for Tier II reporting. Another portal that some states have adopted is E-plan. E-plan was developed by the University of Texas-Dallas. Other than Tier2 submit, Tier II Manager, and E-Plan, some states have created their own portal for submitting the report like California, Texas, Missouri, and Louisiana. Each portal has its pros and cons, but digitizing this information has proven to be very beneficial to the regulated community, emergency responders, and state and local officials.
In addition to some of the ambiguities surrounding Tier II mentioned above, there are some common reporting errors that SERCs have identified.