The EPCRA provides for emergency planning and notification and specifies reporting requirements and its relationship to other laws.
The EPCRA (§301, 42 USC §11001) requires states to establish a state-level emergency response commission and local emergency planning districts to prepare and implement emergency plans. Each planning district designates a local emergency planning committee comprised of impact groups in the community (EPCRA §301[c], 42 USC §11001 [c]).14 Each local committee establishes its own procedures and rules for handling public requests for information.
The planning and notification requirements of the EPCRA are triggered by certain extremely hazardous substances. The EPA lists over 350 chemicals which it considers extremely hazardous. The list is published in Appendix A of the Chemical Emergency Preparedness
14. For example, representatives from the state, local officials, fire de partments, community groups, and owners and operators of facilities subject to the EPCRA.
Program Interim Guidance.15 Any facility which has a threshold amount of a listed substance must notify the state emergency response commission. Threshold amounts vary depending upon the toxicity of the substance.
Any release of a regulated substance triggers the statute's emergency notification procedures.16 Generally, any facility must report the release of a reportable quantity of any listed substance to the local emergency planning committee and the state emergency response commission (40 CFR §355.40). The EPCRA divides releases into four categories (EPCRA§304[a], 42 USC§11004[a]); all trigger the notification requirement by the facility owner or operator (EPCRA §304[b], 42 USC §11004[b]). The reporting requirements have several statutory exceptions. These exceptions include releases resulting in exposure solely within the facility's boundaries and any federally permitted release pursuant to CERCLA §101(10) (EPCRA §304[b], 42 USC §11004[b]).
The EPCRA requires facility owners or operators to complete forms providing information about chemicals found within or released from a facility. With the exception of the limited provisions for securing trade secrets (EPCRA §322, 42 USC §11042), the information is generally made available to the public (EPCRA §324[a], 42 USC §11044[a]).
Facility owners and operators who prepare an OSH Act (29 USC§§651-658) MSDS for hazardous chemicals must submit an MSDS for each applicable chemical to the state emergency response commission, the local emergency planning committee, and the local fire department (EPCRA §311[a], 42 USC §11021[a]). An MSDS contains the name and hazardous characteristics of each applicable chemical, the related health hazards, permissible exposure limit, precautions for safe handling and use, and emergency and first aid measures.
Alternatively, the facility can submit a list of all chemicals for which an OSH Act MSDS is required (EPCRA §311[a][A], 42 USC§11021[a][A]). The facility must identify the hazardous components of such chemicals, and the EPA may require additional information (EPCRA §§311[a][A-B], 42 USC §§11021[a][A-B]).
Facilities must also submit emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms to provide information on the types, location, and quantities of hazardous chemicals at the facilities (EPCRA §312, 42 USC §11022). The inventory forms are divided into tier I information, which is
15. See Federal Register 51, (17 November 1986):41570.
16. Release is defined as "any spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, discharging, injecting, escaping, leaching, dumping, or disposing into the environment (including the abandonment or discarding of barrels, containers and other closed receptacles) ..." (Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. sec. 329. U.S. Code. Vol. 42, sec. 11049 .)
provided in all instances, and tier II information, which is provided upon special request (EPCRA §§312[a], [e], 42 USC §§11022[a], [e]). The EPA can also request information on individual hazardous chemicals (EPCRA §312[d][C], 42 USC §11022[d][C]). As with the MSDS, this inventory form must be filed with the state emergency response commission, the local emergency planning committee, and the local fire department (EPCRA §312[a], 42 USC §11022[a]).
Finally, facility owners and operators must submit an annual toxic chemical release form to provide information about toxic chemicals released from a facility during its normal business operations (EPCRA §313[a], 42 USC §11023[a]). This requirement applies to facilities which employ ten or more full-time employees; which are categorized in Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Codes 20 through 39; and which manufacture, use, or process a toxic chemical above the stated threshold quantity (EPCRA §313[a], 42 USC §11023[a]).17
The EPA also has authority to require individual facilities to complete the form although such facilities are not under the appropriate SIC code (EPCRA §313[b], 42 USC §11023[b]). The release form should provide information to the federal, state, and local governments, as well as to the general public (EPCRA §313[h], 42 USC §11023[h]).
The EPCRA (§321[a], 42 USC §11041[a]) does not explicitly preempt any state or local law or interfere with any obligations or liabilities under any other federal law. This relationship differs from the OSH Act requirements related to hazardous information disclosure in the workplace which explicitly preempts any related state laws. Nevertheless, any state or local law which requires facilities to file a MSDS must at least comply with the format and content requirements under the EPCRA (§321[b], 42 USC §11041[b]).
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This is common knowledge that disaster is everywhere. Its in the streets, its inside your campuses, and it can even be found inside your home. The question is not whether we are safe because no one is really THAT secure anymore but whether we can do something to lessen the odds of ever becoming a victim.