Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act

We looked at Bhopal and what happened back in 5A. There we noted that it took 8 years for OSHA to promulgate process safety regulations designed to prevent that type of accident. (I am aware of the argument regarding this type of regulation, "The big, well-managed, companies already were doing process safety; the fly-by-night firms won't pay attention, anyway." However this is true of any such regulation. Also, there are many mid-sized firms that now must comply, and as the Bhopal follow-up in the US showed, big firms don't always do what their own internal policies and procedures tell them to do.) Now EPA reacted twice as fast and Congress passed SARA only 4 years after Bhopal. (See below) SARA has several general provisions regarding the effect of chemicals from industry on the public, these are found in a section of the SARA known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act, EPCRA. Both these provisions have a profound effect on public involvement and information. One provision you are already familiar with requires industries to report the amount of toxic chemicals they release into the environment. EPA collates this data, and that is the source of the information on the Toxic Release Inventory, TRI, you explored in module 2C.

The second major provision that involves the public is the requirement for emergency planning. Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) - The body appointed by the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), as required by EPCRA, which develops comprehensive emergency plans for Local Emergency Planning Districts, collects MSDS forms and chemical release reports, and provides this information to the public. Each county and some large city governments participate in an LEPC. The outline for what must be in a plan is presented on pages 429 and 430 of your textbook. Please look over that list.

Most industries that produce or use chemicals must report to the LEPC the amount of hazardous chemicals on site, provide an MSDS for each of the chemicals, and permit fire department inspections of the site. Industries must give information to the LEPC and concerned citizens in general about certain materials. (40 CFR 370 and following).

[EPCRA and Chapter 19 of your book go into some details about emergency response. We will defer that to Module 12.]

In addition to EPCRA, many state and federal hazardous materials and waste regulations call for extensive public involvement. Besides the legal mandate, most industries and governments recognize the need to prepare the public for actions that will affect the public. For controversial actions (or inaction) the perpetrators want to present the matter in the best light - put the right "spin" on it. Sometimes, and I've been there, there is no "good" way to present some thing to the public. However there is always some "worse" way to present it. The next two modules will discuss public involvement and risk communications.

Module 9 Index