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 Sections and their four key responsibilities
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.
- Section 301 to 303, Emergency Planning. These sections require local governments to prepare chemical emergency response plans in their jurisdiction. Such plans must be reviewed at least annually to remain in EPCRA compliance.
- Section 304, Emergency Notification. This section requires facilities to immediately report accidental releases of hazardous substances and Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHSs). Reports are submitted to local officials as well as the state. Further reporting might also be required. EPCRA 304 ensures local governments the ability to protect human health and the environment in a spill clean-up.
- Section 311 and 312, Community Right-to-Know Requirements. These sections require facilities that store hazardous chemicals to submit corresponding Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). SDSs must be filed with the state, local officials, and local fire departments. If a facility’s chemicals exceed defined quantity thresholds, facilities must additionally submit an inventory report. Inventory reports are filed with the same officials and fire departments. EPCRA Sections 311 and 312 help local and state agencies prepare for the possibility of a chemical emergency at a 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.
EPCRA Tier II
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.