The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA): A Summary

Publication Date: March 2009

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Environment



This report summarizes the Emergency Planning and Community Right-toKnow Act (EPCRA) and the major regulatory programs that mandate reporting by industrial facilities of releases of hazardous chemicals to the environment, as well as local planning to respond in the event of significant, accidental releases. The text is excerpted, with minor modifications, from the corresponding chapter of CRS Report RL30798, Environmental Laws: Summaries of Statutes Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which summarizes 12 major environmental statutes.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (42 U.S.C. 11001-11050) was enacted in 1986 as Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (P.L. 99-499). In Subtitle A, EPCRA established a national framework for EPA to mobilize local government officials, businesses, and other citizens to plan ahead for chemical accidents in their communities. EPCRA required each state to create a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), to designate emergency planning districts, and to establish local emergency planning committees (LEPCs) for each district. EPA is required to list extremely hazardous substances, and to establish threshold planning quantities for each substance. The law directs each facility to notify the LEPC for its district if it stores or uses any "extremely hazardous substance" in excess of its threshold planning quantity. LEPCs are to work with such facilities to develop response procedures, evacuation plans, and training programs for people who will be the first to respond in the event of an accident. EPCRA requires that facilities immediately report a sudden release of any hazardous substance that exceeds the reportable quantity to appropriate state, local, and federal officials.

Subtitle B directs covered facilities annually to submit information about the chemicals that they have present to the LEPC, SERC, and local fire department. In addition, manufacturers and other facilities designated by EPA must estimate and report to EPA annually on releases from their facilities of certain toxic chemicals to the land, air, or water. EPA must compile that data into a computerized database, known as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Generally, all information about chemicals that is required to be reported to LEPCs, SERCs, or EPA is made available to the general public, but EPCRA authorizes reporting facilities to withhold the identity of a chemical if it is a trade secret. Citizens are given the authority to bring civil action against a facility, EPA, a governor, or an SERC for failure to implement EPCRA requirements.