Home
About LGEAN Resources News Calendar of Events Webinars Podcast Contact LGEAN
Facebook Twitter Linked In

Emergency Management

Issue Summary 
Role of Local Governments
Local Emergency Planning Committees
Community Water Systems
Fire Departments
Public Health Personnel
Tribes 
Environmental Justice
Resources


Issue Summary

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was part of Congress' response to two major chemical disasters in the 1980s, including the 1984 Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing plant disaster in Bhopal, India, and the 1985 chemical release in Institute, West Virginia. Many states have since enacted similar legislation. 

EPCRA brings together state, local and tribal officials; industrial facilities; and the public to protect communities from potential chemical hazards. The law sets out a framework for locally based emergency planning and requires facilities to report on the presence and releases of toxic and hazardous chemicals. Local governments use this information to develop emergency response plans.

Role of Local Governments

State and local authorities are often the first to respond to emergencies. Under EPCRA, Local/Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs/TEPCs) coordinate with facilities that store or use extremely hazardous substances to develop response procedures, evacuation plans and training programs for first responders. EPCRA ensures local officials will know what hazardous chemicals are used or stored by local businesses and will be notified quickly in the event of an accident. LEPCs and TEPCs have three overarching responsibilities: PREPARE, RESPOND and INFORM. Local governments can also involve community volunteers through Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) and the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).

Back to Top

Local Emergency Planning Committees

States, tribes and territories each establish a State/Tribal Emergency Response Commission (SERC or TERC), whose members are appointed by the governor or tribal chair. The SERC designates emergency planning districts and appoints a Local/Tribal Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC or TEPC) for each district. These generally coincide with existing political subdivisions, such as counties or townships, or a SERC may form multi-county, or regional districts. The SERC retains oversight while the approximately 3,500 LEPCs serve as the primary points of contact for the community members and regulated facilities within each district. LEPCs can advise local governments and agencies within the emergency planning district.

LEPC members represent a cross-section of the local community and must include representatives from these categories:

  • Elected state and local officials
  • Law enforcement
  • Civil defense
  • Firefighters
  • First aid
  • Health
  • Environmental professionals
  • Hospital
  • Transportation 
  • Broadcast and print media
  • Community groups
  • Facility owners and operators subject to EPCRA requirements

LEPCs/TEPCs should hold regular meetings and establish rules. Rule should encompass notifying the public about committee activities, holding public meetings to discuss the emergency plan, soliciting and responding to public comments and distributing the emergency plan. 

Prepare

LEPCs/TEPCs develop and implement chemical emergency response plans (ERPs). ERPs identify potential chemical hazards; assess the community's capability to address those hazards; set out procedures the community will follow; and provide for needed personnel, equipment and training. 

ERPs must include the following nine components. LEPCs/TEPCs may assume additional obligations, such as for all-hazard planning and response. 

  • Identification of facilities subject to EPCRA, routes likely to be used for transporting extremely hazardous substances and facilities that contribute to or are subject to additional risk. LEPCs/TEPCs may identify facilities not subject to EPCRA emergency planning, such as natural gas facilities, which house additional hazardous chemicals that present a public risk. Railroads must provide a SERC/TERC or another state-delegated agency certain information regarding high-hazardous flammable trains (HHFTs) passing through the region, including their routes. ERPs can consider vulnerable institutions (e.g., schools, daycare centers, churches, hospitals and nursing homes) and sensitive natural resources.

  • Methods and procedures adopted by facilities and local emergency and medical personnel to respond to any release.

  • Designation of a community emergency coordinator for receiving emergency release notification and informing facilities in the emergency planning district, as well as facility emergency coordinators.

  • Procedures for reliable, effective and timely notification by the facility emergency coordinator and the community emergency coordinator to persons designated in the emergency plan and to the public, that a release has occurred.

  • Methods for determining the occurrence of a release and area/population likely to be affected. EPA makes available tools like Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO) and Areal Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres (ALOHA) to model impacts of potential accidental chemical releases.

  • Description of emergency equipment and facilities and identification of the persons responsible for each. LEPCs/TEPCs can solicit information from the local emergency coordinator, health department, fire departments, industrial groups, hospitals, EMS organizations and response teams, as well as review relevant state and federal response procedures.

  • Evacuation plans. These should include procedures to notify the public of an emergency, shelter locations, procedures to move persons that need special services and evacuation routes.

  • Training programs for emergency responders.

  • Methods and schedules for executing the plan. LEPCs/TEPCs should conduct regular exercises, including call-down notification drills, tabletop exercises and full-field exercises, and notify and involve the public as well as the Regional Response Team (find your RRT on this map) and the state, county and local response community.

EPCRA requires certain facilities to make information available to LEPCs/TEPCs, either automatically or by request, in addition to data included in the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). There are four main categories of information that can be incorporated into an ERP:

  • Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS): Facilities handling one or more of the 355 listed EHS must inform the LEPC within 60 days of when it either acquires an EHS above a designated threshold planning quantity (TPQ) or makes changes that would affect emergency planning.  These facilities must assign an emergency coordinator as its representative to the LEPC. Facilities must promptly provide any additional information an LEPC requests regarding the facility and chemicals present on site.

  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS): Facilities that are required to prepare or have available a Safety Data Sheet under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), must submit a copy of each SDS, for each hazardous chemical on-site at or above certain thresholds, to the SERC/TERC, LEPC/TEPC and local fire department.

  • Emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms: Facilities required to file SDSs also must file with the SERC/TERC, LEPC/TEPC and local fire department annual reports detailing the amounts and locations of hazardous chemicals present on-site. There are Tier I and Tier II reports, with Tier II containing chemical-specific information. State or tribal reporting requirements may be more stringent. All states require facilities to submit a Tier II form, including electronic reporting, or the state equivalent. State, tribal and local agencies must provide access to the Tier II information upon request by the public.

Toxics Release Inventory (TRI): Certain facilities that manufacture, process or otherwise use toxic chemicals in excess of a threshold quantity must report annually to EPA on the amounts of each chemical released into the environment (to air, water and land) or transferred off site during the preceding year. EPA compiles this information in the TRI and makes it publicly available. The TRI can inform communities and local governments about pollution prevention activities implemented by facilities.

Some chemical information may be protected as trade secrets. LEPCs and TEPCs may check with EPA to learn which facilities in their emergency planning district submitted a trade secret package. 

Each LEPC and TEPC submits the ERP to the SERC or TERC to review and make recommendations. EPA's Regional Response Teams, under the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, may review and comment on an emergency plan upon the LEPC's request. The LEPC reviews the ERP at least annually and conducts regular training exercises.

Other Relevant
Federal Regulatory Programs

An ERP must comply with the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and each LEPC should understand the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) regulatory program, which focuses on security at high-risk chemical facilities. 

The Clean Air Act (CAA) Section 112(r) requires facilities that use certain listed regulated flammable and toxic substances to develop a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to help prevent accidental chemical release. These facilities must coordinate with local emergency planning and response officials, including on field and tabletop exercises. A facility's Tier II form will indicate whether it adopted an RMP. An LEPC may reach out to its EPA Regional RMP Contact to obtain access to the RMPs in its jurisdiction. 

Some facilities may also need to comply with federal or state hazardous waste regulations. 

The Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule, promulgated under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act or Clean Water Act (CWA), aims to prevent oil discharges from reaching navigable waters or adjoining shorelines, and to contain discharges of oil. The SPCC Rule requires facilities that reach certain threshold storage requirements to develop and implement SPCC plans, among meeting other obligations. By complying with the SPCC Rule, local and tribal governments can help avoid oil discharges that can ultimately harm inland and coastal waters. Local and tribal environmental agencies are also key to monitoring private facilities for SPCC noncompliance to prevent the devastating consequences of oil discharges on both natural resources and affected communities. Check out LGEAN's Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) 101 for Local and Tribal Governments webinar on the topic. 

Respond

EPCRA requires facilities to notify local, tribal and state authorities upon the spill or release of either an EHS or hazardous substance in an amount greater than its reportable quantity (RQ). This includes both the 800 hazardous substances (HSs) listed under Section 103(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the approximate 360 extremely hazardous substances (EHSs) defined under Section 302 of EPCRA.

Facilities must notify LEPCs/TEPCs and SERCs/TERCs likely to be affected by the release. The first notification is immediate (e.g., by telephone, in person or by radio) to the LEPC's or TEPC's community emergency coordinator. A facility and/or a vehicle operator will contact 911 or the local telephone operator about a release occurring during transportation or while chemicals were stored incident to transportation. 

The second notification is a follow-up written report submitted within 30 days, which must include:

  • Actions taken to respond to and contain the release; 

  • Any known or anticipated associated acute or chronic health risks associated; and 

  • Advice regarding medical attention necessary for exposed individuals.

States may require reports sooner than 30 days. Written follow-up notifications are not required for releases that occur during transportation, or from storage incident to transportation.  Facilities have a reduced reporting option for continuous releases of CERCLA HSs and EPCRA EHSs. 

Inform

LEPCs and TEPCs must designate an official to serve as information coordinator. LEPCs and TEPCs must make publicly available their ERPs and the chemical reports and follow-up emergency release reports they receive from facilities. EPCRA also requires each LEPC and TEPC to annually publish in local newspapers an announcement that the ERP, facility chemical reports and inventory forms have been submitted and how they may be accessed. Members of the public may request certain facility-specific information, subject to limitations.

Back to Top

Community Water Systems

The America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 amended EPCRA to require state and tribal agencies to notify the drinking water primary agency (find yours here)—or community water system (CWS) if there is no drinking water primacy agency—of any reportable releases. State agencies receiving notification of a release will forward both the initial and follow-up written report to any affected CWS. EPA encourages LEPCs/TEPCs to also share any information on releases that affect community water systems, especially releases involving transportation. An affected CWS may also access Tier II information by submitting a request to a SERC/TERC or LEPC/TEPC, which must obtain and make it available to the CWS.

Back to Top

Fire Departments

Fire departments have authority to inspect facilities that file Tier I and Tier II reports. Facilities must, upon request, allow the fire department with jurisdiction over the facility to conduct an on-site inspection and provide specific location information on hazardous chemicals.

Back to Top

Public Health Personnel

Health professionals—including those at local public health agencies—have conditional access to trade secret data for treating exposed individuals in three situations (disclosure requirements here):

  • Emergencies: Facilities must supply any treating physician or nurse its SDS, inventory form and/or toxic chemical release form, including specific chemical identity if: (1) a medical emergency exists; (2) the chemical identity is necessary for or will assist in diagnosis; or (3) one or more individuals were exposed. The facility must provide this information immediately and without requiring a written confidentiality agreement or statement of need (but may require them after the emergency passes).

  • Non-emergency diagnosis or treatment of an exposed individual: Facilities must promptly provide the specific chemical identity of any hazardous chemical, EHS or toxic chemical to any health professional who requests that information in writing and who provides both a written statement of need and a written confidentiality agreement. 

  • Preventive research studies and treatment measures: A facility must provide requested information on a specific chemical identity to a health professional who: (1) is either a local government employee or under contract; (2) is conducting a study under the auspices of the state; (3) requests the information in writing; (4) signs a written confidentiality agreement; and (5) supplies a written statement of need indicating one of five health needs. 

Back to Top

Tribes

Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs) implement EPCRA in the same manner as SERCs, and Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (TEPCs) have the same responsibilities as LEPCs. TRI  requirements also obligate facilities located in Indian country to report to EPA and to the appropriate tribal government instead of to the state. 

Tribes may enter into a cooperative agreement to authorize the state in which they are located to implement all or certain EPCRA provisions in its territory. Tribes may also choose to enter into a cooperative agreement with another tribe or a consortium of tribes in which its lands are located. Tribal representatives may join neighboring LEPCs to coordinate emergency planning and response.

Back to Top

Local/Tribal Government
Worker Protections

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Regulations

These regulations require state and local entities to follow the requirements under OSHA's HAZWOPER Standard. This extends to local government employees conducting hazardous waste operations and emergency response in states that do not have a federally-approved state OSHA program. The requirements protect both compensated and uncompensated state and local government employees, which includes volunteers (e.g., volunteer firefighters), performing one of three general categories of work operations:

  • Hazardous waste site cleanup operations.
  • Operations involving hazardous waste that are conducted at treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities.
  • Emergency response operations involving hazardous substance releases.

Environmental Justice

Chemical accidents disproportionately impact fenceline communities (low-income and/or communities of color near major sources of pollution). Best practices for incorporating environmental justice principles into EPCRA-related activities include:

  • In the ERP, identify and address the social disparities that impact the extent to which community members can participate in a response.

  • Explain the emergency action plan and community notification procedures in multiple languages.

  • Ensure the notification system will reach all members of the community, especially particularly vulnerable individuals.

  • Encourage trusted local environmental/community groups to join the LEPC/TEPC as members.

  • Conduct community fora at accessible locations and times convenient for the community.

  • Leverage non-traditional engagement and communication methods, such as social media.

Back to Top

Resources

EPA

  • Toxics Release Inventory Program. Find, understand and use the toxic chemical release data submitted annually by industrial and federal facilities. The TRI includes data on environmental releases and pollution prevention activities implemented by facilities, all in one place.

  • TRI National Analysis. EPA's analysis of the most recent year of TRI data. Users can explore through story maps, interactive charts and graphs, infographics and written summaries. Includes "Where You Live" feature for finding data at the local level.

  • Consolidated "List of Lists" under EPCRA/CERCLA/CAA §112(r). Extensive list of all chemicals subject to EPCRA, CERCLA and CAA Section 112(r).

  • Accidental Release Information Program (ARIP). National database that details the causes and circumstances of chemical accidents, as well as follow-up actions taken by facilities.

  • Natural Disasters Resource Center. Provides tips, news, and announcements related to disaster relief and preparedness. Includes links to fact sheets on the EPA's role in emergency response and funding opportunities for improving resilience.

  • Disaster Debris Recovery Tool. An interactive mapping tool of 12 types of recyclers and landfills, spanning 20,000 locations that communities can utilize to manage debris following natural disaster. Provides examples of established debris management plans for incidents such as flooding, as well as links to debris management training courses and other federal agency disaster resources.

  • Planning for Natural Disaster Debris. Comprehensive publication to written to support EPA's responsibilities under the National Response Framework. Assists communities in crafting detailed debris management plans, suggests management options for various debris streams, and provides case studies of exemplary communities in addition to links to further federal, state, and local resources.

  • All Hazards Waste Management Planning Tool. This interactive online tool helps emergency managers develop pre-incident waste management plans for both natural and man-made disasters. This tool offers improved estimation of waste volumes based on specific information about structures in impacted areas, updated and more detailed information on waste management facilities, the ability to add information on transportation options, and integration with other EPA disaster debris systems.

Tools

  • CAMEO and ALOHA. CAMEO is a software suite designed to assist frontline chemical emergency planners and responders. ALOHA is an atmospheric dispersion model used for evaluating releases of hazardous chemical vapors. 

Guidance

Training

Tribes

Organizations

Financial Resources

Back to Top