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Please note: This summary is provided to help you understand the regulations. Consult the references provided for links to the full text of the regulations.

Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act

Road Rail Air Water


The Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) is the name applied to Title III of a broader law, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), enacted in 1986.

SARA was passed to amend an earlier law, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which had created a program for the cleanup of toxic waste sites (the "Superfund" program). However, shortly before SARA was passed, a release of toxic gases from an industrial facility in Bhopal, India caused over 2000 deaths, and sensitized the U.S. Public to potential dangers wherever large quantities of toxic chemicals were stored and used. An extra section not immediately related to toxic waste cleanup, Title III, was added to SARA to address these concerns.

EPCRA was designed to promote emergency planning and preparedness at both the state and local level. It provides citizens, local governments, and local response authorities with information regarding the potential hazards in their community (sometimes referred to as "Community Right-to-Know"). EPCRA requires any facility that is using or storing certain specific chemicals to inform state and local agencies that it is subject to EPCRA requirements. It also established various additional reporting obligations. Also, EPCRA required the establishment of State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs). SERCs are responsible for coordinating certain emergency response activities and for appointing Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs).

The list of chemicals covered under EPCRA is called the list of "Extremely Hazardous Substances" (EHS). There are currently over 300 chemicals on the list. EPA provides a "List of Lists Database" that lists each chemical, together with a toxicity and regulatory profile, and a first aid guide.

EPCRA requirements that are most likely to be relevant to transportation facilities are discussed below.

Emergency Planning (EPCRA Sections 302 and 303)

Any transportation facility that has any chemical listed on the extremely hazardous substances (EHS) list at or above its planning threshold quantity must: Notify the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) within 60 days of receiving the shipment (or producing the substance) on site.

  • Designate a facility representative who will participate in the emergency planning process with the LEPC.
  • Provide requested information to enable the LEPC to develop and implement the emergency plan.

Emergency Release Notification (EPCRA Section 304)

If there is a reportable release into the environment of a hazardous substance, transportation facilities must provide:

  • Emergency notification
  • Written follow-up notice to the LEPC and SERC for any area likely to have been affected

A release is reportable under EPCRA Section 304 if the amount of hazardous substance releases meets or exceeds the minimum reportable quantity set in the regulations. Two types of chemicals fall under this regulation: 1) extremely hazardous substances; and 2) CERCLA hazardous substances.

Annual Inventory (EPCRA Sections 311 and 312)

Under EPCRA Section 311 requirements, transportation facilities must submit copies of hazardous chemical Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) or a list of MSDS chemicals to the LEPC, SERC, and local fire department.  Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, employers must maintain an MSDS for any hazardous chemical stored or used in the work place.

Under EPCRA Section 312, transportation facilities that meet Section 311 requirements for a hazardous chemical must submit an annual inventory report for that chemical. The inventory report (called a Tier II report) must be submitted to the LEPC, SERC, and local fire department by March 1 of each year.

EPCRA requirements do not apply to materials being transported. Also, materials being distributed or stored incidental to transportation (I.e., under active shipping papers) would not be included in a facility threshold determination under Sections 311 and 312. However, spill reporting requirements would still apply to all materials, whether in transit or not.

Toxic Release Inventory (EPCRA Section 313)

Companies that use more than a certain minimum amount of any of a long list of toxic chemicals are required to submit a form every year to EPA detailing how much of each chemical was emitted or disposed of during the preceding year. The EPA makes that information public in a database called the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). It has turned out to be one of the most effective tools for convincing manufacturers to put some serious effort into waste reduction No one likes to be identified in local newspaper headlines as the biggest polluter in the neighborhood.

Not all companies have to report under TRI; in fact, it mostly applies to manufacturers. The reporting requirement depends on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) of the facility. The transportation industry falls under NAICS codes 48 – 49, Transportation and Warehousing. Within this group, only facilities in Industry Code 488390 are required to submit TRI reports. This includes facilities that are primarily engaged in routine repair and maintenance of ships and boats from floating drydocks.

Typical records an EPA inspector may ask to review under EPCRA The typical records a local or state authority or EPA inspector may ask to review during an EPCRA inspection include: Proof of notification for all environmental releases of a listed hazardous substance. "Failure to notify" violation will be sited if the National Response Center, State Hotline, and LEPC is not notified in a timely fashion.

  • Emergency Response Plans
  • MSDSs
  • Tier I or Tier II inventory reporting forms. This inspection is done together with the MSDS. The inspector will look at what materials are stored and in what quantity and if they are subject to reporting requirements. The federal government prefers the more detailed Tier II inventory form.

More Resources

  • EPA website - EPCRA
  • EPA website - TRI
  • EPA website - CERCLA
  • State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) - SERCs are responsible for coordinating certain emergency response activities.
  • Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) - LEPCs are appointed by SERCs.
  • "List of Lists" is a consolidated list of chemicals subject to EPCRA and CAA Section 112(r) used to help facilities handling chemicals determine whether they need to submit reports under Sections 302, 304, 311, 312, or 313 of EPCRA and, for a specific chemical, what reports may need to be submitted. It will also help facilities determine whether they will be subject to accident prevention regulations under CAA Section 112(r) and lists "unlisted hazardous wastes" under RCRA.
  • Computer Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO) - CAMEO's primary users include firefighters, State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) and Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs), industry, schools, environmental organizations, and police departments.