Gaining a better understanding of EPCRA is essential for your organization's Environmental, Health, and Safety compliance programs. For many EHS managers, EPCRA can feel complex, and even overwhelming when first introduced. Starting with the basics, then breaking the requirements down into parts, can make EPCRA compliance much more manageable.
Following the 1984 accidental release of methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India, that killed or injured more than 3,000 people, communities worldwide were understandably concerned about the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. In 1986, the US Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) to help communities plan for chemical emergencies and prevent disasters caused by extremely hazardous chemicals.
This act created new emergency planning and chemical reporting obligations to federal, state, and local governments, tribes, and industries. Through better emergency response planning and access to chemical information, states and emergency responders are better able to minimize negative impacts on the environment and surrounding communities.
EPCRA is concerned with the storage and release of hazardous substances, extremely hazardous substances, OSHA Hazardous Chemicals, and Toxic Chemicals. In addition, it collects information about the types of facilities, the volume of hazardous chemicals they have on-site, and how they are using those chemicals. This information helps state and local organizations effectively plan for, train, and respond to accidental releases of hazardous chemicals at the respective facility.
EPCRA requires that facilities that store specific quantities of Extremely Hazardous Substances and Hazardous Chemicals on-site must submit initial chemical inventory reports.
To determine if the chemicals you have are Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS), you can reference the EPA's List of Lists available on the EPA website. To determine if a chemical is considered a Hazardous Chemical, one must consider the hazard classifications described in the first appendix to OSHA's Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200 Appendix A). Fortunately, most Safety Data Sheets already communicate when a chemical, or one of its constituents, triggers one of OSHA's hazard classifications.
Once facilities have exceeded the defined threshold quantity for a given hazardous substance, they must notify and provide Safety Data Sheets for the reported chemicals to their local fire department, the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC, usually organized at a county level), and the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC). For example, facilities storing more than the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ) of Hazardous Chemicals over 10,000 pounds, or EHS at lower thresholds, must make notifications.
In addition to the initial notification, facilities that store or handle Hazardous Chemicals above the TPQ (10,000 pounds) or an EHS above 500 pounds or its chemical-specific TPQ (whichever is less) are federally required to submit an annual Tier II inventory report by March 1st. EPA originally authorized a simpler Tier I report, but most jurisdictions have since obsoleted the simpler report.
It's important to remember that some states have specific EPCRA Tier II reporting and submission requirements, so it's crucial to check locally before submitting. These state-specific requirements often focus on the specific manner in which Tier II reports are submitted, such as whether paper forms are allowed or which software application to use. Regardless of these differences, the basic information requested by EPA and state agencies includes a facility site plan, emergency contact information, and chemical inventory information. Filing fees are also common with Tier II reporting.
The requirements of the Tier II chemical inventory form vary from state to state but generally include the following:
Chemical Abstracts Service registry number (CAS#)
If the chemical is or contains an Extremely Hazardous Substance
The average and maximum amount on-site
The chemical's physical and health hazards
Where chemicals are stored on-site
Whether the chemical is a liquid, solid, or gas
If the chemical is a mixture or pure
Facilities that release regulated chemicals, like EHSs and hazardous substances, at or above their Reportable Quantity (RQ) must report the release to the LEPC and the SERC. In addition, releases of CERCLA hazardous substances and oil require additional reporting to the National Response Center (NRC).
To report a release, facilities must call their LEPC and SERC immediately upon discovery, or at least as soon as it is safe to do so. Whenever a verbal notice is given, a written report must be submitted within 30 days of the release. However, it's important to remember that different states may have other or additional reporting requirements, so always check your local jurisdiction first.
The Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), often called SARA or SARA 313 by environmental professionals, tracks releases and waste management at industrial and federal facilities. This data is made available in a public database so that companies, governments, and communities can make better-informed decisions. Coincidentally, this reporting rule has done more to reduce pollution in the United states than any of the rules which imposed more substantive requirements.
Facilities must submit a TRI Report if:
They employ ten or more full-time workers; and
They use, manufacture, or processes any TRI chemical above its established reporting threshold during the year; and
They have a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code
Facilities required to submit to a TRI must do so annually on July 1st for every chemical it used or manufactured above the reporting threshold during the previous year. Most TRI chemicals have a reporting threshold of 25,000 pounds for chemicals manufactured (including imported) or produced at the facility and 10,000 pounds for chemicals the facility uses for ancillary purposes. When a chemical is above the reporting threshold, release pathways in air, water and waste need to be determined for those chemicals. TRI reports are submitted electronically through EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) reporting tool.
Confidence in EPCRA's reporting requirements is essential because they play a significant role in your organization's EHS compliance. As regulations change, EHS professionals must have processes and technology to ensure their compliance programs are always up-to-date. Thankfully, EHS software provides many solutions to the persistent pain points many EHS professionals are likely to encounter when dealing with these evolving regulations.
If you’re struggling with “final mile” EPCRA Tier II reporting, focused solutions like those from Encamp can simplify submitting your reports to the correct SERC, LEPC, and Fire Department.
Keeping your regulatory registers and compliance calendars up-to-date should also be a top priority. Dakota Software's EHS compliance solutions can streamline these processes by digitizing and centralizing your EHS obligations, action plans, permits and other documentation. Our products feature an integrated regulatory database that helps identify and plan compliance activities at all your locations. Because it's constantly updated by our in-house experts, new regulatory changes will never take you by surprise..
Check out our compliance management demo library for more information on how Dakota Software can help you achieve and maintain EHS compliance.