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Emergency Planning Community Right-to-Know Act

Thorough and accurate hazardous and toxic chemical inventory information is essential in regulatory reports to comply with the Emergency Planning Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

EPCRA has four major provisions:  Emergency planning (sections 301-303), emergency release notification (Section 304), hazardous chemical storage reporting requirements (Sections 311-312), and toxic chemical release inventory (Section 313).  The information provided to the regulatory agencies under EPCRA helps efficient local preparedness for unexpected chemical emergencies and provides accurate information on hazardous chemical storage and releases into the environment to protect both human health and the environment.  The chemicals covered by each of the sections and the subsequent quantities that trigger reporting are different.

Sections 301-303 of EPCRA require facilities to have emergency response plans initially focused on 406 extremely hazardous substances (EHSs) listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1987 (now currently 355 chemicals).  The list includes the threshold planning quantities (TPQs or minimum limits) for each substance.  Any facility that has EHS at or above respective TPQs must notify the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) or the Tribal Emergency Response Commission (TERC) and Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) with 60 days after they first receive a shipment or produce the substance on site.  The 355 EHSs have varying TPQs ranging from 1-10,000 pounds pending the chemical. 

Section 304 of EPCRA requires facilities to immediately notify the LEPC and the SERC or the TERC if there is a release into the environment of a hazardous substance that is equal to or exceeds the minimum reportable quantity (RQ) set in the regulations.  This requirement covers the 355 EHSs, as well as more than 700 hazardous substances subject to the emergency notification requirements under CERCLA Sections 103(a)(40 CFR 302.4).  Some chemicals are common to both lists.  Section 304 covers over 1,000 substances at RQs ranging from 1-5,000 pounds released within a 24-hour period.

Sections 311 and 312 of EPCRA requires facilities that have Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) [formerly Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)} for chemicals held above certain threshold quantities to submit either copies of their SDSs or a comprehensive list of these chemicals to the SERC or TERC, LEPC, and local fire departments.  If a list of chemicals is provided; it must include the chemical or common name of each substance and must identify the applicable hazard categories.  The hazard categories are immediate (acute) health hazard; delayed (chronic) health hazard; fire hazard; sudden release of pressure hazard; and reactive hazard.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require employers maintain SDSs for any hazardous chemicals stored or used in the work place.  There are presently approximately 500,000 products required to have SDSs. 

The Section 311 (hazardous chemicals) and 312 (EHSs) reports (Tier I and Tier II, respectively) require facilities to report 500 pounds or TPQ whichever is less for EHS; gasoline greater than or equal to 75,000 gallons (all grades combined), diesel greater than or equal to 100,000 gallons (all grades combined); and 10,000 pounds for all other hazardous chemicals.  The Tier I report must include an estimate (in ranges) of the maximum amount of hazardous chemicals stored on site at any time during the proceeding calendar year; an estimate (in ranges) of the average daily amount of hazardous chemicals in each category; and the general location of hazardous chemicals in each category. The Tier II inventory form provides the same except it must list the specific chemicals and provide the chemical name or the common name as indicated on the MSDS, a brief description of the manner of storage of the chemical, the location of the chemical at the facility, and an indication of whether the owner elects to withhold location information from disclosure to the public.

Section 313 or EPCRA requires facilities to produce a Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) which tracks the management of certain toxic chemicals that pose a threat to human health and the environment.  Facilities in different industries must annually report how much of each chemical they managed through recycling, energy recovery, treatment and environmental releases.  These reports cover environmental releases and other management of toxic chemicals that occurred during the previous calendar year.  TRI helps support informed decision-making by industry, government, non-governmental organizations and the public.  Section 313 TRI reports on over 650 listed toxic chemicals and categories with threshold limits ranging from 25,000 pounds per year manufactured or processed; 10,000 pounds per year otherwise used; persistent bioaccumulative toxics have lower listed thresholds.  TRI reports include information about on:  on-site releases (including disposal) of toxic chemicals to air, surface water and land; on-site recycling, treatment and energy recovery associated with TRI chemicals; off-site transfers of toxic chemicals from TRI facilities to other locations; pollution prevention activities at facilities; releases of lead, mercury, dioxin and other persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals; and facilities in a variety of industry sectors (including manufacturing, metal mining and electric power generation) and some federal facilities.  There are presently 16 PBT chemicals and 4 PBT chemical compound categories which are subject to reporting under Section 313.

TRI reports are useful in identifying sources of toxic chemical releases; analyzing potential toxic chemical hazards to human health and the environment; and encouraging pollution prevention at facilities.   Under the TRI Program, a chemical does not have to be counted towards threshold determinations and release and other waste management calculations if it is present in a mixture below a certain concentration.  This is known as the “de minimus” concentration in a mixture.  When the rule was developed that implemented the reporting requirements of Section 313 of EPCRA, EPA adopted the de minimus percentages for the OSHA Hazard Communication Standards (29 CFR 1910.1900) because much of the initial information that industry would have relating to chemicals in mixtures would have relating to chemicals in mixtures would most likely be from the SDS on that mixture.  The OSHA de mnimus limitation is 0.1 percent if the chemical is a known or suspect carcinogen by virtue of appearing in the National Toxicology Program (NTP), International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), or 29 CFR 1910, Subpart Z, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, OSHA.  The de minimus limitation is 1.0 percent for chemicals that do not meet the OSHA carcinogen criteria.  The carcinogen designation in the list of chemicals relates to any chemical the Agency determined met the OSHA criteria for the 0.1 percent de minimus limitation. Certain metal compound categories have two de minimus limitations.  For example, hexavalent chromium compounds and inorganic arsenic compounds meet the OSHA carcinogen criteria, while trivalent chromium compounds and organic arsenic do not meet the OSHA criteria.   In addition, there are no de minimus levels for PBT chemicals, except for supplier notification purposes.

NIH maintains and submits yearly Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reports to the US EPA.  TRIs are mandated by Title III of the Superfund Amendment Reauthorization Act (SARA), the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Section 313. These reports detail the toxic releases at NIH that occurred in the previous calendar year.
TRI data support informed decision-making by communities, government agencies, companies, and others.  The TRI Program covers 689 chemicals and chemical categories.  In general chemicals covered by the TRI Program are those that cause one or more of the following:

  • Cancer or other chronic human health effects
  • Significant adverse acute human health effects
  • Significant adverse environmental effects