Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)
The provisions from the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986, Title III statute are also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). This statute was enacted by U.S. Congress in 1986 largely in response to the fatal incident in Bhopal, India where deadly methyl isocyanate gas escaped from a Union Carbide chemical plant. The Bhopal community did not know what chemicals were in their neighborhood and so, unprepared to respond to the releases, suffered 2,500 deaths. The purpose behind SARA Title III/EPCRA has been to create a cooperative relationship among government, business, and the public involving all of them in the effort to prevent, to plan, to prepare for, and to manage chemical emergencies.
The law sets the requirements for facilities that manufactured, processed, or stored certain hazardous or toxic chemicals, of certain threshold level, on-site to report annually to the state and local governments and to report any accidental releases on a timely basis. The information submitted by facilities provided the basis for community right-to-know and local emergency planning and preparedness.
EPCRA requires the states to:
- Promote outreach for developing local emergency preparedness programs to respond to chemical releases.
- Receive reports from the regulated community.
- Organize, analyze and disseminate the resulting information on hazardous chemicals to local governments and the public.
EPCRA required the establishment of State Emergency Response Council (SERC) and granted certain responsibilities and authorities to the state and local governments. This act was promulgated without the usual incentive of massive federal funding -leaving the burden of implementation to state and local governments.
The Virginia SERC - Virginia Emergency Response Council (VERC) was created in 1987 [Commonwealth of Virginia, Emergency Services and Disaster Laws, Chapter 3.5 - Virginia Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Program - Code of Virginia, Section 44-146.40, Virginia Emergency Response Council created; membership; responsibilities.]
The VERC was established as a policy, rule-making body, while Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (Virginia DEQ) received state funding to administer a majority of the day to day activities of SARA Title III program. In accordance with the federal laws, as its first responsibility, the VERC established and appointed members to 111 Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) in Virginia. The formation of VERC also designated the Virginia Dept. of Emergency Management (Virginia DEM) to serve as the contact for facility immediate/emergency notification in the event of a release, spill, etc. The VDEM also serves as the lead agency in facilitating communication among LEPCs and providing LEPCs with technical assistance.
Due to the dual purposes of the SARA Title III/EPCRA rule, the Virginia DEQ SARA Title III Office mainly serves as administrative staff to the VERC; information clearing house and data evaluation for five facility reporting programs under SARA Title III (Sections 302, 304, 311, 312, and 313); support to VDEM and the LEPCs; technical resources to the regulated community; and liaison to the USEPA on this matter.
The Virginia SARA Title III / EPCRA Program is not a federally delegated program; therefore, it is strictly a federal program. The program was established to assist communities in emergency planning and response and communities' right-to-know. Commonwealth of Virginia does not have enforcement authority over the program.
The five EPCRA reporting programs that the Virginia SARA Title III Program Office oversees are:
Because of this activity businesses have reassessed their chemical inventories and their manufacturing processes. In addition, more businesses are working cooperatively with local governments to plan for and try to prevent an accidental chemical release. Businesses also are pursuing waste minimization and pollution prevention programs and realizing the benefits of actual dollar savings.
Click here for access to the EPCRA regulations and statute.