Literature & Regulations
Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office
Chemicals in Your Community
A Guide to the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know
(Note this document is similar to EPA document EPA 550-K-93-003
(also known as U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1988
516-002/80246) printed by the United States Environmental
Protection Agency, September, 1988, Washington, DC 20460 except
for information that has been updated, and page referencing which
has been changed to adapt to the Internet requirements.)
Part One: An Introduction to the
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
Part Two: How Key Groups Are Affected by the
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know
For Further Information
Most of us have driven past an industrial plant and
wondered what was happening inside. Did you ever
think to yourself:
"I wonder what they're making in there?"
"Could they be using any dangerous chemicals?"
"What if there's an accident--will they be able to
warn me and my family about toxic gases--before it's
too late? Has anybody made plans for an evacuation?"
"What's in that smoke that's always coming out of
that smokestack? When the wind's right, it looks like
it's blowing right toward my house!"
If questions like these have occurred to you, you're
not alone. More and more people have become
concerned about hazardous chemicals in the last few
years--especially since the 1984 chemical tragedy in
Bhopal, India, where a release of toxic gas killed and
injured thousands of people.
In the past, citizens who wanted to know more
about the hazardous and toxic chemicals in their
communities had to depend on the cooperation of
industry for information. Some companies were
willing to answer questions and even opened their
gates for public tours a few times a year. But if a
company wasn't willing to share information about its
operations with its neighbors, there wasn't much a
concerned citizen could do about it.
All that has changed. In November of 1986,
Congress passed a law designed to help America's
communities deal safely and effectively with the many
hazardous substances that are used throughout our
society. The law is called the Emergency Planning and
Community Right-to-Know Act; and this booklet has
been written to help you understand and take
advantage of your rights and opportunities under this
The law has two main purposes: to encourage and
Support emergency planning for responding to
chemical accidents; and to provide local governments
and the public with information about possible
chemical hazards in their communities.
For the law to work, industry, interested citizens,
environmental and other public-interest organizations,
and government at all levels must work together to
plan for chemical accidents and to reduce the risk to
the public from releases of toxic chemicals into the
environment. The law establishes an ongoing forum at
the local level for discussion and a focus for
action--the Local Emergency Planning Committee.
This is a ground-breaking new approach to
environmental protection. It assumes that the more
citizens know about chemical hazards in their
communities, the better equipped they and their local
governments will be to make decisions and take
actions that will better protect their families and their
neighbors from unacceptable risks.
A key to successful environmental protection
programs, both now and in the future, is exactly this
kind of community and citizen awareness and
involvement in environmental decision-making. The
federal government is developing a number of
products and programs to assist communities in this
process, and EPA continues to have important
responsibilities for controlling pollution on a national
basis. But local environmental problems cannot be
solved by the federal government alone. Solutions
must involve the people who have a direct, immediate
stake in both the problems and their resolution,
supported by government at all levels.
In response to the law's requirements, states,
communities, industries, and citizens' groups around
the country have joined forces to:
Write emergency plans to protect the public from
Set up procedures to warn and, if necessary,
evacuate the public in case of emergency.
Provide citizens and local governments with
information about hazardous chemicals and
accidental releases of chemicals in their
Prepare public reports on annual releases of toxic
chemicals into the air, water, and soil.
All of this planning and information-gathering is
directed toward a common goal: to help you, your
local officials and community leaders to be better
informed as together, you make important decisions
about how to deal with toxic and hazardous materials.
This guide explains your rights and opportunities
under the Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act. It is also intended to help you
exercise those rights and take advantage of those
opportunities. The first part of the guide describes
how the law works; what its provisions were intended
to accomplish; and how all members of the
community can play an active part in making sure that
both the letter and the spirit of the law are carried out.
The second part discusses specific groups and
organizations affected by the law; describes what they
can do or are required to do to make it work; and tells
how they can benefit from it.
As a citizen, you now have the right to know about
the chemicals in your community. You have the right
to make your own informed decisions as to whether
these chemicals are a threat to your health or
environment. The more each of us learns about,
understands, and participates in managing chemical
hazards, the safer our communities will be for
everyone. Working together through the Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know program, we
may save some lives.
An Introduction to the Emergency Planning
and Community Right-to-Know Act
On December 4, 1984, a cloud of methyl isocyanate gas, an
extremely toxic chemical, escaped from a Union Carbide chemical
plant in Bhopal, India. More than 2,500 people lost their lives.
Tens of thousands more were injured, some suffering permanent
Americans asked: "Could it happen here?"
A chemical release in West Virginia shortly after the Bhopal
tragedy, though not nearly as serious as Bhopal, made the
question even more urgent.
Even before 1984, there were groups trained to deal with chemical
emergencies at the federal, state and local levels--the National
Response Team*, Regional Response Teams, state and local response
teams, and others. But there was no mandatory national program,
nor were there comprehensive state and local programs everywhere
in the country, to deal with chemical accidents.
*The National Response Team is composed of representatives of 14
federal agencies with responsibilities for emergency preparedness
and response. Regional Response Teams consist of regional
representatives of the federal agencies on the NRT, as well as
state emergency response and preparedness officials.
The Bhopal tragedy started a chain of events in this country that
is still unfolding:
The Environmental Protection Agency established the
Chemical Emergency Preparedness Program (CEPP) to raise state and
local awareness of the potential for accidents involving
extremely hazardous substances, and to foster development of
state and local emergency plans.
At the same time, the Chemical Manufacturers Association
(CMA),an industry group, also set up a voluntary program called
Community Awareness and Emergency Response (CAER). The CAER
program encourages plant managers to become more involved in
their local community by explaining their plant's operations and
participating in local emergency planning.
Environmental and labor groups became more active in working
toward local and national legislation to protect against chemical
More than 30 states passed laws (some before Bhopal) giving
workers and citizens access to information about hazardous
substances in their work places and communities. There are
differences in these laws, but most require reporting of toxic
chemical releases and the presence of hazardous substances. In
some cases, that information is made available to the public.
With these and other efforts in mind, Congress enacted the
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The new law
makes many of these voluntary programs mandatory. The federal law
does not preempt states or local communities from having more
stringent or additional requirements. It requires that detailed
information about the nature of hazardous substances in or near
communities be made available to the public. The law also
provides stiff penalties for companies that do not comply, and it
allows citizens to file lawsuits against companies and government
agencies to force them to obey the law.
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act creates a
new relationship among government at all levels, business and
community leaders, environmental and other public-interest
organizations, and individual citizens. For the first time, the
law makes citizens full partners in preparing for emergencies and
managing chemical risks. Each of these groups and individuals has
an important role in making the program work:
(Part II of this booklet provides more detailed information on
the roles and responsibilities of these groups.)
Local communities and states have the basic
responsibility for understanding risks posed by chemicals at the
local level, for managing those risks, for reducing those risks,
and for dealing with emergencies. By developing emergency
planning and chemical risk management at the levels of government
closest to the community, the law helps to ensure the broadest
possible public representation in the decision-making process.
Citizens, health professionals, public-interest and labor
organizations, the media, and others are working with
government and industry to use the information for planning and
response at the community level. The new law gives everyone
involved access to more of the facts they need to determine what
chemicals mean to the public health and safety.
Industry is responsible for operating as safely as
possible using the most appropriate techniques and technologies;
for gathering information on the chemicals it uses, stores, and
releases into the environment and providing it to government
agencies and local communities; and for helping set up procedures
to handle chemical emergencies. Beyond meeting the letter of the
law, some industry groups and individual companies are reaching
out to their communities by explaining the health hazards
involved in using chemicals, by opening communication channels
with community groups, and by considering changes in their
practices to reduce any potential risks to human health or the
The federal government is responsible for providing
national leadership and assistance to states and communities so
they will have the tools and expertise they need to receive,
assimilate, and analyze all Title III data, and to take
appropriate measures in accidental risk and emissions reduction
at the local level. EPA is also working to ensure that industry
complies with the law's requirements; the public has access to
information on annual toxic chemical releases; and the
information is used in various EPA programs to protect the
nation's air, water, and soil from pollution. EPA is also working
with industry to encourage voluntary reductions in the use and
release of hazardous chemicals wherever possible.
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act contains
four major provisions:
- Planning for chemical emergencies.
- Emergency notification of chemical accidents and releases.
- Reporting of hazardous chemical inventories.
- Toxic chemical release reporting.
The law also deals with trade secrets, disclosure of information
to health professionals, public access to information gathered
under the law, and other topics. The four major elements are
described in this section. (The main provisions of the law are
also outlined in Highlights of the Law, and
It's in the Federal Register
The emergency planning section of the law is designed to help
your community prepare for and respond to emergencies involving
hazardous substances. Every community in the United States must
be part of a comprehensive plan.
The governor of your state must appoint a State Emergency
Response Commission (SERC). The governor can choose to name one
or more existing state agencies, such as the environmental,
emergency, health, transportation, commerce, and other relevant
agencies, as the SERC. Members of trade associations, public-
interest organizations, and others with experience in emergency
planning may also be included on the SERC. These commissions have
already been named in all 50 states, and the U.S. territories and
possessions (see State
Emergency Response Commissions) for SERC contact telephone
Each SERC in turn has divided its state into local emergency
planning districts, and must appoint a Local Emergency Planning
Committee (LEPC) for each district. These committees should be
broadly representative of their communities. They must
- Representatives of elected state and local officials.
Law enforcement officials, civil defense workers, and
First aid, health, hospital, environmental, and
Representatives of community groups and the news media.
Owners and operators of industrial plants and other users of
chemicals, such as hospitals, farms, small businesses,
Around the country, LEPCs have been getting organized, and
thousands of people, both volunteers and professionals, are
participating in this program.
Your LEPC's first jobs are to get organized, receive information,
analyze hazards, and proceed to develop a plan to prepare for and
respond to chemical emergencies in your district. The initial
plan must be completed by October 17, 1988 and must be exercised,
reviewed annually, and updated. It should be based on the
chemical information reported to the LEPC by local industries and
public and other facilities with chemicals. This information
enables the LEPC to conduct a community hazard analysis,
identifying tapes and location of chemical hazards, vulnerable
areas and populations, and the risk of accidents and their
effects on the community.
Once the hazards have been analyzed, the LEPC develops a local
emergency response plan. The plan lays out potential local
hazards, response capabilities, and procedures to follow in an
emergency. (See Required Elements of a Local
Emergency Plan for the elements of a comprehensive plan.) The
planning process may identify opportunities for reducing risks by
reducing chemical inventories.
The list of 366 "extremely hazardous substances" identified by
EPA as having immediate health effects and hazardous properties
may serve as a focus for emergency planning, but plans should
address all hazardous materials in the community that present
risks to public health and safety. These substances are found in
some widely used insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers,
preservatives, photographic chemicals, and solvents as well as in
wastewater treatment and drinking water treatment processes.
(This and other chemical lists covered by the Emergency Planning
and Community Right-to-Know Act are discussed on page 15.)
The list of extremely hazardous substances includes a "threshold
planning quantity" for each substance. If this amount or more of
the chemical is present at any manufacturing plant, warehouse,
hospital, farm, small business, or other facility, the owner or
operator must notify both your state emergency response
commission and your local emergency planning coordinator. This
lets the planners know what hazardous chemicals are being used
and stored in your community.
The facility's owner or operator must also name an employee as
"facility coordinator," and that person must participate in your
district's planning process.
Facility owners or operators who violate the reporting provisions
of this section of the law are subject to civil penalties of
up to $25,000 a day for each day a violation continues.
Your LEPC will appoint an information coordinator who will
receive and process information as it is submitted to the
committee and make it available to the public.
One of the distinctive characteristics of Title III is that an
emergency response plan must address these unique characteristics
in your community--a fill-in-the-blanks plan will not do this.
Since membership on the LEPC is broad-based, your LEPC should be
familiar with your community. It should know about the capacities
of local hospitals, and about the location of schools nursing
homes and other special considerations in the community. It
should consider all these factors in developing the emergency
The LEPC must let you and your neighbors know about the plan by
publishing notices and scheduling public meetings, where you will
have a chance to comment on the LEPC's activities. Your LEPC must
also conduct emergency drills to make sure the plan will work if
an accident occurs.
The plan due in October 1988 is the beginning, not the
end, of your LEPC's responsibilities. The LEPC must review the
plan annually, and as new information becomes available, your
district's plan will have to be updated. The LEPC will be a focal
point in the community for information on hazardous chemicals.
LEPC meetings will also provide a forum for discussions of how
your community should address hazardous situations identified
during the planning process.
The SERCs also have continuing responsibilities: they must
supervise and coordinate the activities of LEPCs, and they and
LEPCs must establish procedures for receiving and processing
public requests for information collected under other sections of
the new law. They must also review local emergency plans annually
to make sure of such things as coordination across the state.
If your SERC and LEPC do their jobs well under this new planning
process, your community should be much better prepared to deal
with chemical accidents than in the past, and will be better able
to make decisions about the presence of chemicals in the
Required Elements of a Local Emergency
An emergency plan must:
- Use the information provided by industry to identify
the facilities and transportation routes where hazardous
substances are present.
- Establish emergency response procedures, including
evacuation plans, for dealing with accidental chemical
- Set up notification procedures for those who will
respond to an emergency.
- Establish methods for determining the occurrence and
severity of a release and the areas and populations likely to
- Establish ways to notify the public of a release.
- Identify the emergency equipment available in the
community, including equipment at facilities.
- Contain a program and schedules for training local
emergency response and medical workers to respond to chemical
- Establish methods and schedules for conducting
"exercises" (simulations) to test elements of the
emergency response plan.
- Designate a community coordinator and facility
coordinators to carry out the plan.
Emergency Release Notification
If there's a chemical accident at a commercial, municipal, or
other facility or on a transportation route in your community,
and if the accident results in the release of any one of a large
number of hazardous substances, you have a right to know about
Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know law, a
facility must immediately notify the community and the state--the
LEPC and the SERC of the release of more than a predetermined
amount of one of these chemicals. If the release results from a
transportation accident, the transporter can dial 911 or the
local telephone operator to report it.
Chemicals covered by this section include not only the 366
"extremely hazardous substances" mentioned in the preceding
section, but also more than 700 hazardous substances subject to
the emergency notification requirements of the Superfund
hazardous waste cleanup law (some chemicals are on both lists).
Superfund requires notification of releases to the National
Response Center (NRC), which alerts federal responders.
For some of the most hazardous and toxic chemicals on these
lists, releases of more than one pound must be reported. For
others, the reporting quantities range from ten to 10,000 pounds.
EPA is combining these two lists of chemicals into a single
master list for accidental release reporting so that releases
will be reported to federal, state, and local levels.
Immediate notification must include:
- The name of the chemical.
- The location of the release.
- Whether the chemical is on the "extremely hazardous" list.
- How much of the substance has been released.
- The time and duration of the incident.
- Whether the chemical was released into the air, water, or
soil, or some combination of the three.
- Known or anticipated health risks and necessary medical
- Proper precautions, such as evacuation.
- A contact person at the facility.
The notification will activate emergency plans. Information on
emergency releases will also be considered in the SERC and LEPC
The law also requires follow-up reporting. As soon as practicable
after the release, the facility coordinator must submit a written
report to both the LEPC and the SERC. The follow-up report must
update the original notification and provide additional
information on response actions taken, known or anticipated
health risks, and, if appropriate, advice regarding any medical
care needed by exposure victims.
Any person who fails to notify the authorities of a release or to
submit a follow-up emergency report is subject to civil
penalties of up to $25,000 a day for each day of
non-compliance. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $75,000 a
In addition, criminal penalties may be imposed on any
person who knowingly and willfully fails to provide notice;
criminal violators face fines of up to $25,000 or
prison sentences of up to two years. Repeat criminal
offenders can be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for as
long as five years.
Hazardous Chemical Reporting
Information about accidental chemical releases is only the
beginning of your "right to know" about hazardous substances. You
also have a right to information about the amounts, location and
potential effects of hazardous chemicals being used or stored in
designated quantities in your community.
Facilities must report this information to your LEPC, your SERC,
and your local fire departments. The LEPC and SERC, in turn, must
make the information available to the public.
Never before has such comprehensive information on chemicals been
so accessible to the public. All companies, large or small,
manufacturing or non-manufacturing, are potentially subject to
This information provides a tool which can be used to lower
chemical hazards in the community by reducing chemical
inventories. The reports are also essential for LEPCs and
emergency response workers, providing the raw material for the
emergency planning process discussed earlier. Fire departments
and public health officials will use the information to plan for
and respond to emergencies.
Facilities must report on the hazardous chemicals they use and
store in two different ways.
The first is through material safety data sheets (MSDSs),
which contain information on a chemical's physical properties and
health effects. Under federal laws administered by the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), companies
are required to keep MSDSs on file for all hazardous chemicals
used in the workplace. They must also make these sheets available
to their employees, so workers will know about the chemical
hazards they are exposed to and can take necessary precautions in
handling the substances.
Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act,
facilities must submit either actual copies of the MSDSs,
or lists of MSDS chemicals that are present at the
facilities in excess of certain amounts. These must be sent to
the LEPC, the SERC, and the local fire department. This reporting
requirement has been in effect since October 17,1987.
The reporting for this part of Title III is based not on any list
of specific chemicals, but on a definition of "hazardous
chemical" under OSHA's requirements--essentially any chemical
that poses physical or health hazards. As many as 500,000
products can fit the definition and thus, if present in amounts
above the thresholds, must be reported. Information below the
threshold must be provided by the facility when it is requested
by the LEPCs.
When the Act was passed in 1986, OSHA's regulations applied only
to manufacturers. OSHA has since expanded its requirements to
include most facilities where workers are exposed to hazardous
chemicals, and the community reporting requirements are tied to
OSHA's by law. Before the change, about 350,000 facilities were
covered by OSHA; now, an estimated 4.5 million facilities
The second way that companies must report on hazardous chemicals
is by submitting annual inventories of these same
hazardous chemicals to the same three organizations--the LEPC,
the SERC, and the local fire department. The first annual
inventory report was due on March 1. 1988.
The law includes a "two-tier" approach for annual inventory
reporting. Under Tier 1, a facility must report the amounts and
general location of chemicals in certain hazard categories. For
example, a Tier I report might say that a facility stores 10,000
pounds of substances that cause chronic health effects.
A Tier II report contains basically the same information, but it
must name the specific chemical. A Tier II report might say that
the facility has 500 pounds of benzene, and it would indicate the
physical and health hazards associated with benzene.
Congress gave companies the flexibility to choose whether to file
Tier I or Tier II forms, unless state or local laws require Tier
II reporting. EPA believes that Tier II reports provide emergency
planners and communities with more useful information, and is
encouraging facilities to submit Tier II forms. Many companies
have voluntarily provided Tier II reports.
You can gain access to MSDS and annual inventory reports by
contacting your SERC or LEPC. While the information is available
to the public, companies can ask that the locations of specific
chemicals within the facility be kept confidential. This means
that SERCs, LEPCs, and local fire departments can use the
location information but not disclose it to the public.
Violators of the hazardous chemical reporting provisions are
subject to the following penalties: for failing to submit MSDSs
or lists of MSDS chemicals, civil penalties of up to $10,000 a
day for each violation; for non-compliance with the annual
inventory requirements, $25,000 per violation.
Toxic Chemical Release Reporting
Along with all the information on hazardous chemical use, storage
and accidental release described above, you also have the right
to know if certain manufacturing plants are routinely releasing
any of some 320 toxic chemicals into the air, water or soil of
This fourth major element of the Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act applies to facilities with ten or more
employees that manufacture, process or use more than "threshold"
amounts of these chemicals. An estimated 30,000 facilities
nationwide are subject to reporting. They must estimate each year
the total amount of the chemicals that they release into
the environment--either accidentally or as a result of routine
plant operations--or transport as waste to another location.
Reports must be filed by July I of each year covering releases in
the previous calendar year. The first reports, covering 1987,
were due on July 1, 1988.
Many chemicals covered by this section, although not all, pose
long-term (chronic) health and environmental hazards such
as cancer, disorders of the nervous system, and reproductive
disorders from on-going routine exposure. Descriptions of the
different groups of chemicals covered by the law are on page 15.
To find out more about their health and environmental effects,
see the "For Further Information" section on page 32.
While all Title III reports are intended for community use, some
are submitted to LEPCs and SERCs, and fire departments; the
annual release reports are submitted to EPA headquarters and to
the state environmental, health, or emergency response agency
which coordinates with the SERC. EPA is required to compile them
into a national computerized data base called the Toxic Release
Inventory, or "TRI." This data base must be accessible to the
public through computer telecommunications and other means.
You will be able to obtain the release information on microfiche
from a public library in your county, your state office where the
forms are filed, federal depository libraries; the LEPCs, which
also are a focal point for the data dissemination at the local
level and will be able to access and review TRI for your
community; and from EPA's regional offices. Until the information
has been computerized, you can get copies of the actual reports
submitted by industry from your state or EPA. (A guide to
obtaining TRI and other information collected under the Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act is on page 32.) You may
also be able to get copies of the reports from submitting
facilities, although they are not required to release
their reports directly to citizens.
If you own a home computer and a telephone modem, you will also
be able to call up the TRI data base "on line" on your computer
to see what releases have occurred in your community (a nominal
access fee will be charged). You will be able to search through
the reports electronically and pull out information of interest
from more than one report at a time--for example, all reports
filed by facilities in your zip code, or all discharges to a
particular river, or all reports which include releases of a
specific chemical. The public data base will be available in the
spring of 1989.
The annual release data can be used, along with the other
information the LEPC receives, to put together a more complete
picture of the hazardous substances in your district. Companies
can also use the release information they collect to assess their
operations with an eye to reducing the amount of toxic chemicals
they use and release into the environment.
Information that must be gathered and reported under this section
of the Act includes:
- Which toxic chemicals were released into the environment
during the preceding year.
- How much of each chemical went into the air, water and land.
- How much of the chemicals were transported away from the site
of the facility for disposal.
- How chemical wastes were treated on-site.
- The efficiency of that treatment.
Companies that fail to file annual toxic chemical release reports
are subject to civil penalties up to $25,000 a day for
each chemical they should be reporting.
Many companies already report data on chemical emissions to EPA
and the states under other environmental laws such as the Clean
Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act. The annual release reporting requirement is
different because releases of a specific chemical to air, water,
and land will appear on one form, and because the public will
have direct access to the data.
By using the TRI data base, you will be able to determine the
estimated annual emissions of the same chemical in a specific
geographic area. You will also be able to compare the emissions
reported by similar facilities in different parts of the country,
to see which ones are doing the best job of controlling their
The information reported under this section of the Act has some
limitations. For one thing, much of the data in the Toxic Release
Inventory will be based on estimates, not on actual
measurements of releases. Because most facilities do not normally
monitor their releases, EPA is providing guidance to ensure that
estimates are as accurate as possible. EPA will also conduct some
audits and inspections to help facilities improve the accuracy of
the data they report.
A second limitation is that not all toxic chemicals or sources of
toxic chemical releases are covered. Only facilities in the
manufacturing sector with ten or more employees must report.
A third limitation of the reports is that they show only total
annual emissions, so you will not be able to learn from
the Toxic Release Inventory whether a chemical was released in
large amounts over a short period of time, or in small amounts
every day throughout the year. Information on the rate
that chemicals are released can be important in determining the
effects of the release on human health and the environment; but
the TRI will not provide this information, at least in the early
years of the program.
A final limitation is that the reports cover releases of
chemicals, but do not show the extent of public exposure
to the chemicals after they enter the air, water or soil. (An
exposure is the concentration of a chemical at the time an
individual comes in contact with it.) Many things can happen to a
chemical once it is released into the environment; these
processes make it difficult to determine the extent to which
people are actually being exposed to chemicals as the result of
any particular release.
What the Toxic Release Inventory can do best is to serve as a
"pointer" to potential toxic chemical problems. The TRI will
enable EPA, state and local agencies, and citizens to look for
"hot spots," or areas with apparently high emission levels. Using
this information, environmental agencies can set priorities for
further investigation and possible regulatory or other action, if
needed, to protect the public health and the environment.
Environmental agencies, as well as public-interest organizations
and LEPCs, can also use the data to encourage facilities to cut
back on their releases.
As you learn more about toxic chemical releases and other
hazardous substances in your area, you may want to consult with
local and state health officials, environmental professionals,
labor union officials, and other experts for advice on how you
can use this information to make your community a safer
and healthier place to live.
- Governors appoint state emergency response
- SERCs establish emergency planning districts and appoint,
supervise, and coordinate local emergency planning
- LEPCs develop local emergency response plans and
review them at least annually.
- Facilities notify SERCs and LEPCs if they have extremely
hazardous substances present above "threshold planning
quantities," and participate in emergency planning.
Emergency Release Notification
- Facilities notify SERCs and LEPCs immediately of
accidental releases of hazardous substances in excess of
quantities" and provide written reports on actions taken and on
- SERCs and LEPCs make accidental release information
available to the public.
Hazardous Chemical Reporting
- Facilities submit material safety data sheets
(MSDSs) or lists of hazardous chemicals on-site (above "threshold
quantities") to SERCs, LEPCs, and local fire departments.
- Facilities submit emergency and hazardous chemical
inventory forms (amounts and locations of chemicals) to
SERCs, LEPCs, and local fire departments.
- SERCs and LEPCs make hazardous chemical information
available to the public.
Toxic Chemical Release Reporting
- Covered facilities submit annual reports on yearly
toxic chemical releases to states and EPA.
- EPA establishes a national toxic chemical release
inventory based on facility reports.
- States and EPA make release information available to the
public and communities, EPA makes the information accessible
on a national computerized data base, and by other means.
- Facilities may claim chemical identity information
trade secret, but must substantiate the claim.
- Trade secret information may be disclosed to health
professionals for diagnostic, treatment, and prevention
- Citizens may challenge trade secret claims by
Penalties and Citizen Suits
- The government may assess civil and administrative
penalties of $10,000 to $75,000 per day against facilities
that fail to comply with the above provisions.
- Anyone who knowingly and willfully fails to provide emergency
release notification is subject to criminal penalties of
up to $50,000 or five years in prison.
- The SERC, LEPC, or the state or local government may
initiate actions against facility owners or operators for
failure to comply with Title III requirements.
- Citizens may initiate civil actions against EPA,
SERCs, and facility owners and operators for failure to comply
with the law.
- Anyone who knowingly and willfully discloses trade
secret information may face penalties up to $20,000 and/or one
year in prison.
- States may sue EPA for failure to provide trade secret
You can find detailed information on the various provisions of
the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act in the
Federal Register, which is available at public or
university libraries. Here are the Federal Register
citations for the EPA regulations covering various sections of
- Sections 301 to 303 (emergency planning): April
22, 1987, December 17, 1987, February 25, 1988 (40 CFR 300 and
- Section 304 (emergency release notification): April
22, 1987, December 19, 1987, February 25, 1988 (40 CFR 300 and
- Sections 311-312 (hazardous chemical reporting):
October 15, 1987, August 4 1988 (40 CFR 370)
- Section 313 (toxic chemical release reporting):
February 16, 1988, June 20, 1988 (40 CFR 372)
- Section 322 (trade secrets): July 29, 1988 (40 CFR
- Sections 325-326 (penalties and citizen suits): to be
Companies reporting under the Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act can, under very limited conditions, request
that the identity of specific chemicals in their reports
not be disclosed to the public. No other information required
by this law in the reports can be withheld from the public.
To protect a chemical's identity from disclosure, the company
must be able to prove among other things that the information has
not been reported under any other environmental regulation, and
that it is a legitimate trade secret--in other words, that
disclosure could damage the company's competitive position.
The chemical's identity must be included in the company's reports
to EPA. EPA will keep the original reports in a confidential
file, and "sanitized" versions, with the chemical name deleted,
will be available to the public. SERCs and LEPCs will also
receive sanitized versions and make them available to the public.
Information about the general category of the chemical, which
will enable you to determine its health and environmental
effects, will be included in the public version of the report.
Facilities must substantiate any trade secret claims when they
are submitted. If you or any other citizen wants to challenge a
trade secret claim, you can do so by filing a petition requesting
disclosure of the chemical identity with EPA. EPA will then
review the claim to insure that it is a valid trade secret.
Companies should be careful when preparing trade secret claims.
Owners and operators who submit frivolous claims can be penalized
up to $25,000 for each such claim.
The law also allows health professionals to obtain access to
trade secret chemical information if they need it to diagnose and
treat patients or to do research. To receive the information,
they must submit a written request for access to the chemical
identity, along with a statement of need and a confidentiality
agreement. (In medical emergencies, physicians and nurses can
obtain the information without providing a confidentiality
agreement and statement of need in advance. They must, however,
submit these documents as soon as circumstances permit, if asked
to do so by the company.)
There are four groups of chemicals subject to reporting under the
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Some
chemicals appear in several groups.
Extremely Hazardous Substances
This list currently contains more than 300 chemicals. Because of
their extremely toxic properties, these chemicals were chosen to
provide an initial focus for chemical emergency planning. If
these chemicals are released in certain amounts, they may be of
immediate concern to the community. Releases must be reported
These are hazardous substances listed under previous Superfund
hazardous waste cleanup regulations (Section 103(a) of the
Comprehensive Environmental Resource and Conservation Liability
Act--Superfund). The current list contains about 720 substances.
Releases of these chemicals above certain amounts must be
reported immediately because they may represent an immediate
hazard to the community.
These chemicals are not on a list at all, but are defined by
Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations as
chemicals which represent a physical or health hazard. Under this
definition many thousands of chemicals can be subject to
reporting requirements if a facility manufactures, processes, or
stores them in certain amounts. Inventories of these chemicals
and material safety data sheets for each of them must be
submitted if they are present in the facility in certain amounts.
There are now more than 320 chemicals or chemical categories on
this list, which were selected by Congress primarily because of
their chronic or long-term toxicity. Estimates of releases of
these chemicals into all media--air, land, and water--must be
reported annually and entered into a national data base.
For further information on the chemical lists, contact your local
Emergency Planning Committee or State Emergency Response
Deadline - Requirement
April 17, 1987 - Governors establish State Emergency Response
May 17, 1987 (or 60 days after they become subject to this
provision) - Facilities subject to emergency planning
requirements notify state commissions
July 17, 1987 - SERCs designate emergency planning
August 17, 1987 - SERCs appoint members of Local Emergency
Planning Committees (LEPCs)
September 17, 1987 - Facilities subject to emergency planning
requirements notify LEPCs of their facility coordinator
October 17. 1987 - Covered manufacturing and importing facilities
submit material safety data sheets (MSDSs) or lists of
MSDS chemicals to SERCs, LEPCs, and local fire departments
March 1, 1988 (and annually thereafter) - Covered manufacturing
and reporting facilities submit hazardous chemical inventory
forms to SERCs, LEPCs, and local fire departments
July 1, 1988 (and annually thereafter) - Facilities submit their
first toxic chemical release reports to EPA and designated
September 24, 1988 - Covered non-manufacturing facilities
submit MSDSs or lists of MSDS chemicals to SERCs, LEPCs, and fire
October 17, 1988 - LEPCs complete their first emergency
March 1, 1989 (and annually thereafter) - Covered
non-manufacturing facilities submit hazardous chemical
inventory reports to SERCs, LEPCs, and fire departments
How Key Groups Are Affected by the Emergency Planning
and Community Right-to-Know Act
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act has forged
a closer, more equal relationship among citizens, health
professionals, industry, public-interest organizations, and the
local, state, and federal government agencies responsible for
emergency planning and response, public health and environmental
In the past, most of the responsibility for these activities fell
to experts in government and industry. To the extent that
citizens or their representatives participated, it was generally
"from the outside looking in," as they did what they could to
influence decisions that were, for the most part, out of their
But under the provisions of the Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act, all of these groups, organizations and
individuals have vital roles to play in making the law work for
the benefit of everyone. The law requires facilities to provide
information on the presence of hazardous chemicals in communities
directly to the people who are most affected, both in terms of
exposure to potential risks and the effects of those risks on
public health and safety, the environment, jobs, the local
economy, property values, and other factors.
These "stakeholders" are also the people who are best able to do
something about assessing and managing risks through inspections,
enforcement of local codes, reviews of facility performance and,
when appropriate, political and economic pressures .
This relationship between the Title III data and community action
can best occur at the local level, through the work of the LEPC.
For example, if a local firm has reported the presence of
extremely hazardous substances at its facility, several
accidents, substantial quantities of chemicals, and continuing
releases of toxic chemicals, a community has the data it needs to
seek appropriate corrective action. In short, the law opens the
door to community- based decision-making on chemical hazards for
citizens and communities throughout the nation.
This section describes how each of the key groups and
organizations--as well as individual citizens can help to fulfill
the promise of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know
Act: a safer, healthier environment for you and your family.
Local Emergency Planning Committees, or LEPCs, are crucial to the
success of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know
Appointed by State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs), local
planning committees must consist of representatives of all of the
following groups and organizations: elected state and local
officials; law enforcement, civil defense, firefighting, first
aid, health, local environmental and transportation agencies;
hospitals; broadcast and print media; community groups; and
representatives of facilities subject to the emergency planning
and community right-to-know requirements.
The LEPC's initial task is to develop an emergency plan to
prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies. EPA's list of
extremely hazardous substances may provide a focus for setting
priorities in your planning effort. The plan is required to be
completed by October 17, 1988. This is only the beginning. The
plan must be reviewed annually, tested, and updated. Because the
LEPC's members represent the community, they should be familiar
with factors that affect public safety, the environment, and the
economy of the community. That expertise will be essential as the
LEPC develops a plan tailored to the needs of its planning
An emergency plan must include the identity and location of
hazardous materials, procedures for immediate response to a
chemical accident; ways to notify the public about actions they
must take; names of coordinators at plants; and schedules and
plans for testing the plan. Once the plan is written, the SERC
must review it. The LEPC must publicize the plan through public
meetings or newspaper announcements, get public comments, and
periodically test the plan by conducting emergency drills. The
LEPC must also update the plan at least annually and let the
public know of its activities.
The LEPC has other responsibilities besides developing an
emergency response plan. It receives emergency release and
hazardous chemical inventory information submitted by local
facilities, and must make this information available to the
public upon request. It must establish and publicize procedures
for handling those requests.
LEPCs have the authority to request additional information from
facilities for their own planning purposes or on behalf of
others. LEPCs may want to visit facilities in the community to
find out what they are doing to reduce hazards, prepare for
accidents, and reduce hazardous inventories and releases. LEPCs
can take civil actions against facilities if they fail to provide
the information required under the Act.
In addition to its formal responsibilities, the LEPC serves as a
focal point in the community for information and discussions
about hazardous substances, emergency planning, and health and
environmental risks. Citizens will expect the LEPC to reply to
questions about chemical hazards and risk management actions. It
can also anticipate questions about the extent and the health and
environmental effects of routine toxic chemical releases. Even
though this information is not required by the law to be sent to
LEPCs, EPA and the states are working together to ensure this
information is available at the local level. Many companies are
voluntarily providing local committees and other citizens with
An LEPC can most effectively carry out its responsibilities as a
community forum by taking steps to educate the public about
chemical risks, and working with facilities to minimize those
risks. The value of the information provided by the Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act will be limited unless
citizens are given the means to understand the information and
its implications. The LEPC's ability to improve the safety and
health of its community will be greatly enhanced by the support
of an informed and active citizenry.
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act was
written specifically with you, the citizen, in mind. It is based
on the principle that the more you and your neighbors know about
hazardous chemicals in your community, the better prepared your
community will be to manage these potential hazards and to
improve public safety and health as well as environmental
quality. By volunteering to work with your LEPC, you can play a
major role in making the law work.
The law requires industry and others to make available to you
information on potential chemical hazards and inventories, and on
releases of toxic chemicals into the environment. There are
several ways you can become involved in obtaining and
using this information to enhance the quality of life in
- Make sure that your Local Emergency Planning Committee
(LEPC) has been formed, attend its meetings, and make sure it
is fully representative of the community. Volunteer to serve on
it as a citizen representative.
- Make sure that the LEPC has obtained all the information
it needs from local facilities to prepare a comprehensive
emergency response plan.
- Review and comment on the emergency response plan, and
ask questions about how procedures set out in the plan affect
you, your family, or your place of business.
- Ask for information from your LEPC or State Emergency
Response Commission (SERC) about chemical hazards, inventories,
and releases in your community. Make sure both the SERC and LEPC
have established procedures to make the information reported
under Title III readily available to the public. Ask your LEPC
what facilities are doing to reduce chemical hazards.
- Use the national Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data base to
obtain information on routine releases of toxic chemicals
in your community. Your LEPC should have this information. If
not, you or your LEPC can get the TRI information from a local
library, your state, or the EPA Reporting Center in Washington,
DC. (A guide to obtaining information is on page 32.) If you have
a home computer and a telephone modem, you can call up the
national data base on the National Library of Medicine's
TOXNET(TM) computer system (a nominal access fee will be
- Call or visit facilities in your community and ask if
they have complied with the reporting requirements.
Under certain conditions, facilities can withhold the name of a
chemical on a "trade secret" basis (other information must be
provided). You can challenge trade secret claims by submitting a
petition to EPA.
Title III also allows you to sue the owner or operator of a
business or facility who does not comply with the law, as long as
that person is not facing a government administrative order or
civil action to force compliance. You can also sue EPA, the SERC
or the governor of your state if any of them fails to provide
information that must be made public under the Act.
Finally, you can petition EPA to add or delete chemicals from the
list of toxic chemicals that must be reported under the toxic
chemical release inventory. You also can petition to change the
list of extremely hazardous substances used for emergency
planning and accidental release notification.
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act creates a
groundbreaking opportunity for you as a citizen to become
directly involved in the decisions that affect your safety and
health. Your knowledge of and participation in this program can
help ensure that it accomplishes its goals in your community.
Because fire departments are often the first to respond to a
hazardous chemical emergency, they must be involved in every
aspect of the emergency planning and community right-to-know
Fire departments will be involved in emergency planning through
their participation in the work of LEPCs. It is essential that
fire departments are involved in their LEPCs not only to ensure
they are a part of the system but because fire departments have
important expertise regarding chemical hazards and emergency
planning. The community emergency response plan must include
hazardous chemical emergency training for response workers,
including firefighters. Federal and state programs are available
to train firefighters for dealing with emergencies involving
In addition to participating in emergency planning and training,
fire departments will receive information about hazardous
chemicals from facilities within their jurisdiction. This
information, in the form of either material safety data sheets
(MSDSs) or lists of MSDS chemicals and hazardous chemical
inventory forms, will be the same as the data submitted to LEPCs
Having access to this information will help a fire department
responding to a chemical emergency know which chemicals, as well
as their quantities and locations, to expect at the scene. The
fire department can request additional, more specific information
about chemical inventories at a plant, and it can also request an
on-site inspection. The plant must provide specific information
regarding the location of hazardous chemicals.
In an effort to help fire departments respond to chemical
accidents, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) worked with the Seattle, WA, Fire Department to develop
the Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO
(TM)II) System. EPA has helped NOAA expand this program to meet
the information management needs of Title III. CAMEO II contains
response information and recommendations for 2,629 commonly
transported chemicals; an air dispersion model to assist in
evaluating release scenarios and evacuation options; and several
easily adaptable databases and computational programs that
address the emergency planning provisions of the Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Public institutions such as hospitals, schools, and state and
local governments are vital to the success of any emergency
response plan. Ambulance crews and emergency room personnel must
know how to transport and treat victims of exposure to hazardous
chemicals. Schools and public buildings should plan for
emergencies and may be called on to serve as emergency shelters
for evacuees. Here are some of the other ways public institutions
can participate in emergency planning and hazardous chemical risk
- Representatives of these institutions should be
members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, or at
least learn who represents public institutions on the committee
and stay in contact with that person.
- The institutions' officers should inform the LEPC of
sensitive facilities within the community (hospitals,
schools, and nursing homes) that should be included in the
emergency response plan. These officers should know how they will
be notified in the event of an accident and be prepared to
respond. They should also be familiar with plans for responding
to fires and other emergencies involving hazardous chemicals.
- State and local environmental and public health agencies, in
addition to participating on SERCs and LEPCs, should take
advantage of the new reporting requirements to build an
information base about hazardous chemicals in their states
and communities. This information can then be used to identify
"hot spots," or potential problem areas that warrant further
investigation to determine if they represent unacceptable risks
to the public health or the environment. The agencies also can
use this information to work with industry on voluntary programs
to reduce the amounts and risks of hazardous chemicals
used or released in the community.
Public institutions may be required to submit reports under the
following notification requirements of the Act:
- Emergency Planning: If a public institution has
more than a specified amount of an extremely hazardous substance,
it must report to the SERC and LEPC.
- Emergency Release Notification: If the institution
releases more than a reportable quantity of an extremely
hazardous substance, it must immediately report the release to
the SERC and LEPC.
- Toxic Chemical Release Reporting: If a public
institution operates a manufacturing facility, it could be
covered by the toxic chemical release reporting
Doctors, nurses, and other trained medical professionals who
serve in government health departments, hospitals, and private
practice can be a valuable resource in emergency planning and
response. They can also be an important source of information
about risks to the public health in their communities. Here are
some of the ways these professionals can participate in the
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know program:
- They can volunteer to be a health professional
representative on the Local Emergency Planning Committee, or
they can offer to assist the LEPC in its work.
- They can participate in programs to train medical
personnel to deal with emergencies involving chemical hazards
(health professionals should contact their state training officer
through their LEPC or SERC for more information on training
- They can screen the information submitted under Title
III to determine if any acute or chronic health effects may be
associated with hazardous substances in their communities.
In a more general sense, health professionals may be approached
to provide and interpret information on chemicals available under
this law. The law allows health professionals to gain access to
chemical identity information, even if it is claimed as trade
secret, in three different situations:
- If the chemical identity is needed for the diagnosis and
treatment of an exposed person.
- If a medical emergency exists in which the chemical identity
is needed to aid in diagnosis or treatment.
- If a health professional who is a local government employee
requests a chemical's identity to conduct preventive research
studies and to render medical treatment.
Except for medical emergencies, the request for a chemical's
identity must be accompanied by a written statement of need and a
Hazardous substances are not only found at large chemical plants.
They are also used routinely in many small operations--garages,
dry cleaners, etc. These chemicals are not necessarily hazardous
in normal practice but may be of concern if stored or used
improperly, or during an emergency such as a fire. Most
industrial facilities that use chemicals in the United States are
probably subject to one or more provisions of the Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Many small businesses
are also required to file reports under the law, although several
of the provisions either specifically exempt certain small
businesses or have reporting thresholds that make them apply only
to larger facilities.
A company's initial responsibility under the Act is to determine
whether it has reporting and emergency planning obligations, and
if so, to meet those obligations. EPA has prepared a number of
guidance documents, a videotape, and other materials to help
explain the Act's requirements and to assist companies in filing
required reports and participating in their communities' planning
process. Industry trade associations, such as the Chemical
Manufacturers Association (CMA), also have been active in
alerting their member companies to their obligations under Title
Besides meeting the strict requirements of the law, some chemical
manufacturers and other industries have also taken steps to
establish a dialogue with citizens and to involve the public as
partners in planning for chemical emergencies and managing
chemical risks in their communities. CMA's Community Awareness
and Emergency Response (CAER) program is an example of these
efforts. EPA encourages all companies affected by Title III to
consider similar programs.
The annual toxic chemical release reporting requirement applies
only to manufacturing facilities (those in Standard Industrial
Classification codes 20-39) with ten or more full-time
employees (see page 9). Therefore, many small businesses will
not be subject to this requirement because they do not meet the
manufacturing, processing or use thresholds.
All businesses, however, both manufacturing and
non-manufacturing, are required to report under the
emergency planning, emergency release notification, and hazardous
chemical reporting provisions of the act if they have
specified chemicals in amounts greater than the threshold
quantities for those chemicals. (See page 13 for Federal
Beyond these requirements, some companies--both large and
small--have taken steps to improve community safety by reducing
their stocks of hazardous substances in heavily populated areas.
Others are attempting to substantially lower the levels of
chemicals they release into the environment. In some cases, these
"source reduction" or "pollution prevention" programs have as
their goal the virtual elimination of hazardous chemical wastes
through substitutions, changes in industrial processes, reuse and
recycling, and the use of new technologies to reduce the quantity
and toxicity of hazardous substances before they enter the
To the extent that industrial facilities and other businesses
pursue these efforts, they will be helping to achieve one of the
major objectives of the Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act: a reduction in the amount of hazardous and
toxic chemicals stored in the nation's communities and released
into the nation's air, water, and soil.
The presence of pesticides and fertilizers on a farm can present
a potential chemical hazard to the community just as a factory
can--especially if the farm is located near a populated area or
near transportation routes. Farmers therefore, may be subject to
one or more of the reporting requirements of the Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act:
- Emergency Planning: Farmers should first determine
if they are using any of the 366 "extremely hazardous substances"
that trigger the Act's emergency planning reporting requirement.
If so, and if one or more of the substances exceeds specified
amounts, the farm must alert the SERC and LEPC that it is covered
by the emergency planning requirements. The farm must also
identify a contact in case the LEPC needs additional information.
This information will be used to develop an emergency response
plan for the community. Because the circumstances under which
farmers have extremely hazardous substances may be different from
other businesses, it is important that an agriculture
representative be included on the LEPC.
- Emergency Release Notification: Generally, farmers
must notify their SERCs and LEPCs if there is a release of an
"extremely hazardous substance," or a substance listed under the
Superfund hazardous waste clean-up law, in excess of its
"reportable quantity." There are two exceptions that may exclude
farmers from this reporting requirement:
First, reporting is required only by facilities that produce,
use, or store a "hazardous chemical." Under the definition of a
hazardous chemical, substances that are used in routine
agricultural operations and household or consumer products are
specifically exempt. Even with these exemptions, however, a farm
may still have other hazardous chemicals present which would be
subject to reporting. If you have a release and are unsure
whether or not you need to report it because you don't know
whether or not you have a hazardous chemical, you should report
Second, the proper application of a registered pesticide or
fertilizer in accordance with its intended purpose is exempt from
emergency release notification. In other words, farmers do not
need to report routine pesticide and fertilizer application as
emergency releases. An accidental release above a reportable
quantity of those substances should be reported.
- Hazardous Chemical Reporting:
These reporting requirements are tied to the worker notification
rules of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA), so farmers may be covered if they already must comply
with the OSHA regulations. Farms with fewer that ten full-time
employees are not covered by OSHA and consequently are exempt
from this requirements Chemicals used in routine agriculture
operations and household and consumer products are exempt from
reporting because they do not meet the law's definition of
- Toxic Chemical Release Reporting:
These requirements cover only manufacturing facilities (those in
Standard Industrial Classification codes 20-39) with ten or more
employees. Thus only farms that are involved in manufacturing
operations as a primary activity (such as food, tobacco,
or textile manufacturing) would be covered under this section,
but only if their use of listed chemicals exceeds the threshold
levels for reporting.
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requires
each state to set up a State Emergency Response Commission, or
SERC. The 50 states and the U.S. territories and possessions have
established these commissions, which are listed on page 33.
Indian tribes have the option to function as an independent SERC
or as part of the state in which the tribe is located (seeIndian Tribes).
In some states, the SERCs have been formed from existing
organizations, such as state environmental, emergency management,
transportation, or public health agencies. In others, they are
new organizations with representatives from public agencies and
departments, along with various private groups and associations.
A broad perspective is crucial to the oversight role of the
SERCs. Information available under the Act will involve air,
water, solid waste, toxics, and other state and federal
environmental programs and regulations.
Among the SERC's duties are to:
- Designate local emergency planning districts
within the state.
- Appoint a local emergency planning committee (LEPC) to
serve each of the districts.
- Coordinate and supervise the activities of the local
committees, through regular communication and contact.
- Coordinate proposals for and distribution of training
- Review local emergency response plans annually, making
recommendations for any needed changes.
- Notify EPA of all facilities in the state that are
either covered under emergency planning requirements, or have
been designated as subject to these requirements by the SERC or
The SERCs also receive reports and notifications required by the
legislation: material safety data sheets (MSDSs) or lists of MSDS
chemicals, emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms, and
notices of emergency releases (this data also goes to LEPCs).
The law requires that toxic release inventory information be
provided to EPA and to the state, but does not designate any
specific state agency. The SERC may be designated to receive
these reports, or they may be submitted to the state
environmental, health or emergency management agency (in almost
every state this agency IS a member of the SERC). The designated
agency must make the reports available to the public, and it can
use them itself in developing and enforcing state environmental
and public health programs. (See State
Designated TRI Contacts for a list of the state contacts
designated to receive the toxic release information.)
The SERC should provide the forum for coordinating all Title III
information, and assisting in understanding and communicating the
associated chemical risks.
The SERC is also responsible for:
- Establishing procedures for receiving and processing
public requests for information collected under the Act.
- Asking for further information from facilities, at the
request of the state or another party or at its own discretion,
about a particular chemical or facility.
- Requesting information from EPA on the health effects of
chemicals that EPA has agreed to designate "trade secret," and
ensuring that this information is available to the public.
- Taking civil action against facility owners or operators who
fail to comply with reporting requirements.
The SERC should ensure that its state programs are integrated
with the federal law in order to strengthen enforcement.
The SERC can provide strong leadership, coordination, technical
assistance, and training, work closely with LEPCs to help
identify their specific needs and carry out their programs, and
use its knowledge and expertise to help all affected groups,
organizations and individuals meet their responsibilities under
Because of the sovereignty of many Indian tribes, EPA is
developing regulations under which federally recognized tribes
may act as states, with the same responsibilities as states under
the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Under a draft policy statement developed by EPA, however, tribes
may choose to negotiate agreements with the states in which they
are located so that the state assumes some or all of the
responsibilities imposed by the law.
People living and working under tribal jurisdiction must follow
the same procedures as other persons under the law. In complying,
they will need to know whether the tribe will be functioning as
the SERC. If so, all reports and information requests must be
forwarded to the tribal SERC. If, however, the tribe has chosen
to enter into an agreement with a state, the agreement will
designate who will receive reports and answer questions.
The discussion of the SERC's role, authorities, and
responsibilities (State Emergency Response
Commissions) applies to Indian tribes if the tribe
is functioning as a SERC. Questions about this policy may be
referred to EPA regional offices (see EPA
Regional Offices for a list of those offices).
States and local communities have the primary governmental
responsibility for making emergency planning and community
right-to-know work. The federal government, however, also has
important contributions to make.
The federal government's major responsibilities in implementing
this new law include providing guidance, technical assistance,
and training to states, communities, and industry, in addition to
enforcing the law to ensure compliance. EPA is also responsible
for creating a national data base of toxic chemical releases,
making it accessible to citizens, and ensuring that LEPCs have
the information they need to take appropriate steps to reduce the
risks from accidents and toxic chemical releases in their
communities. The federal government also has a variety of
responsibilities to regulate certain toxic and hazardous
substances under other federal environmental and occupational
health and safety laws.
Guidance and Technical Assistance
To help state and local officials as they develop their emergency
plans, the National Response Team (NRT)* has published the
Hazardous Materials Emergency Planning Guide (NRT-1). In
addition, EPA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),
and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have published a
follow-up document on hazards analysis which tells emergency
planners how to determine the potential hazards of a chemical and
its processes before there is an accident, so they can determine
the priorities of chemical risks in their community and
plan for them.
*The National Response Team is composed of representatives of 14
federal agencies with responsibilities for emergency preparedness
and response. Regional Response Teams consist of regional
representatives of the federal agencies on the NRT, as well as
state emergency response and preparedness officials.
LEPCs can work with their SERCs and ask their Regional Response
Teams to review local emergency plans.
EPA has also published documents to help industry comply with the
reporting provisions of Title III, and to help state and local
officials manage and analyze the information submitted.
The industry guidance documents are designed to minimize
reporting burdens while helping facilities submit accurate
information in a format that can be effectively used by the
SERCs, LEPCs, local fire departments, and EPA. These documents
include both general and industry-specific guidance on estimating
releases for the toxic chemical release reporting forms, and
information on completing the emergency and hazardous chemical
To help SERCs and LEPCs analyze this information, EPA has
developed chemical profiles for extremely hazardous substances
which include some health effects and emergency response
information. EPA is also distributing fact sheets prepared by the
State of New Jersey showing the health and environmental effects
to workers of the chemicals on the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI),
as well as information on federal and state laws and regulations
covering the chemicals.
EPA and FEMA staff are also helping SERCs administer the law by
sponsoring workshops, speaking at meetings of SERCs and LEPCs,
and providing guidance for, developing and testing local
emergency plans and managing, understanding, and communicating
the information submitted under Title III.
EPA offers a number of training activities in preparing for,
responding to, and preventing chemical accidents through the
Agency's Environmental Response Team and joint efforts with FEMA,
DOT and other federal agencies. Under Section 305 of the Act,
FEMA is authorized to provide $5 million a year for fiscal years
1987-1990 in training grants for state and local officials. These
grants will be provided through the SERC in each state. The
purpose of the grants is to allow states and local communities to
gain or improve on the skills necessary for carrying out
emergency planning and preparedness programs.
The training grants are earmarked for federal training programs
and for developing state-delivered courses for local officials.
States must match 20 percent of the funds requested in order to
be eligible for the training grants. The training must focus on
emergency planning, preparedness, mitigation, response, and
recovery capabilities related to emergencies involving hazardous
Toxic Chemicals Release Inventory
EPA will compile the computerized Toxic Chemical Release
Inventory, and will update the data base semiannually as new
information is gathered. The national data base will be available
to the public through computer telecommunications and "other
means," such as computer-generated microfiche, by the spring of
1989. (See For Further Information for
details on obtaining TRI and other information provided under
Special Studies Required by Title III
- EPA has reviewed existing emergency systems for
monitoring, detecting, and preventing releases of extremely
hazardous substances, and alerting the public to them. The
Agency's report of this review was submitted to Congress in June
1988. It makes recommendations to improve technical capabilities
in these areas.
- The National Academy of Sciences will conduct a study of
"mass balance" analysis and information, to be completed by 1991.
A mass balance compares the amount of a chemical entering a
production process with the amount leaving the process, either in
products or as waste. The study's purpose is to assess whether
mass balance data is useful in estimating releases and waste
treatment efficiencies that must be reported on the Toxic
Chemical Release Inventory form.
- The General Accounting Office, also by 1991, must report to
Congress on the collection and use of data in the Toxic Chemical
EPA has a major role to play in the enforcement of Title III. The
Agency is providing assistance to states and local communities
for specific enforcement actions against violators of sections
302, 311, and 312. Since EPA does not receive or process
information under these sections, and SERCs and LEPCs do, actions
should be initiated at the state and local levels. EPA will
assist as much as possible. Under sections 304 and 313, EPA does
have a statutory mechanism to receive information directly from
submitters. The Agency has already taken the lead in bringing
enforcement actions against violators of these sections.
If you are interested in getting involved in your community, or
would like more information on how the Emergency Planning and
Community Right-to-Know Act is being carried out, please contact
your local emergency planning committee. See State
Emergency Response Commissions for a list of state emergency
response commissions. Your SERC can help you locate your local
Your local committee and state commission are the focal points
for information submitted under Title III. In addition to
answering questions you may have after reading this brochure,
they can provide you with information submitted under the law
(see box below).
Toxic Release Inventory data can be obtained by contacting EPA in
P.O. Box 70266
Washington, DC 20024-0266
Attention: TRI public Inquiry
Please be specific when identifying the Toxic Release Inventory
material you would like to obtain. At a minimum, you should
provide the company name, city, and state.
If you have any technical or regulatory questions that your LEPC
or SERC is unable to answer, please contact your nearest EPA
Regional Office see EPA Regional
Offices or call the Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Information Hotline at (800) 424-9346, or (703)
412-9810, or TDD (800) 535-7672, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am
to 6:00 pm, Eastern Time.
An introductory videotape on Title III, titled "Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know: What It Means to You," is
also available. Contact your EPA regional office or the EPCRA
hotline identified above for information on how to obtain
more copies of this brochure, and how to purchase or borrow the
videotape. The Hotline address is:
1725 Jefferson Davis Highway
Arlington, VA 22202
Information Available Under Title III
The following information is available from the following
- Local Emergency Plans
- Local Emergency Planning Committees
- Material Safety Data Sheets or Lists of Hazardous
- Local Emergency Planning Committees
- State Emergency Response Commissions
- Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Forms
- Local Emergency Planning Committees
- State Emergency Response Commissions
- Toxic Chemical Release Inventory Information
- Local Emergency Planning Committees
- State Emergency Response Commissions
- Designated State Agencies
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
CERCLA (Comprehensive Emergency Response, Compensation,
and Liability Act of 1980): The federal statute that authorized
"Superfund." Superfund, which is administered by EPA, provides
funding for cleanups and emergency response actions for hazardous
substances at the worst hazardous waste sites in the United
States. CERCLA is also significant because it set the first
criteria for notification of emergencies involving hazardous
EHS (Extremely Hazardous Substance): Any one of 366
hazardous chemicals on a list compiled by EPA to provide a focus
for state and local emergency planning activities.
EPA: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
FEMA: U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.
LEPC: Local Emergency Planning Committee.
NRC (National Response Center): The central U.S.
clearinghouse for information involving emergency spills and
other releases of oil and hazardous substances.
NRT (National Response Team): The national team composed
of representatives from 14 federal agencies, with emergency
planning and response capabilities, including EPA and FEMA.
MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet): A worksheet required by
the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
containing information about hazardous chemicals in the
workplace; MSDSs are used to fulfill part of the hazardous
chemical inventory reporting requirements under the Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part
of the U.S. Department of Labor.
RQ (Reportable Quantity): An amount of a Superfund
hazardous substance or "extremely hazardous substance" that, if
released, must be reported under the emergency release reporting
requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act or under those of CERCLA.
SARA: Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of
SERC: State Emergency Response Commission.
TPQ (Threshold Planning Quantity): The amount of an
extremely hazardous substance present at a facility above which
the facility's owner/operator must give emergency planning
notification to the SERC and LEPC.
Title III: The third part of SARA, also known as the
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986.
TRI (Toxic Release Inventory): A national inventory of
annual toxic chemical releases from manufacturing facilities.
Maintained by the Chemical Emergency Preparedness and
Prevention Office (CEPPO), Office of Solid Waste and Emergency
Response (OSWER), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Last Updated: September 18, 1996