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EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner Issues Citizen Right-To-Know List of Toxic Chemicals

[EPA press release - January 18, 1994]

EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner today announced a new citizen right-to-know toxic substance list aimed at preventing chemical release accidents in the United States like the one that occurred in Bhopal, India, in 1984. This is the first time EPA has ever issued a final rule pertaining to chemical accident prevention.

"Like the recent announcement on doubling the size of EPA's Toxics Release Inventory, today's rule signifies this Administration's commitment to putting people first," said Browner. "By providing citizens with a list of potential toxic dangers, it will empower communities to deal with risk in their environment."

The purpose of today's final list, paired with risk management planning requirements, is to ensure that plants that use hazardous chemicals reduce the likelihood and severity of accidental chemical releases that could harm the public and the environment. The regulation, issued under authority of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, will also ensure that the public and state and local governments receive facility-specific information on potential hazards and the steps being taken to prevent accidents.

Specifically, today's list identifies substances most likely to cause serious adverse effects on public health and the environment in the event of accidental releases into the atmosphere. Chemical plants and other facilities handling these substances in quantities above the thresholds will be required to prepare risk management plans for prevention of chemical accidents. The details of the requirements for the risk management plans were spelled out in a separate proposed regulation published in the Federal Register October 20, 1993. In that proposal, companies must prepare a risk management plan that describes the off-site consequences of "worst-case" and lesser accidents, the ways these accidents will be prevented and responses to those that may occur. These plans must be submitted to state and local planning committees and made available to the public.

The list announced today includes 77 acutely toxic chemicals, 63 flammable gases and liquids, and certain high explosives and may affect an estimated 115,000 facilities including manufacturers, public drinking water and waste treatment systems, cold storage facilities, wholesalers, service industry facilities, private utilities, and propane retailers.

In developing the substance list, EPA considered whether extremely hazardous substances are volatile enough to make a release to the air possible and whether these substances are in commercial production. One substance (oleum) was listed because it has been involved in numerous accidental releases that have impacted the public. In addition, because vapor cloud explosions and blast waves from detonations of high explosives have caused injuries to the public and damage to the environment, EPA added highly flammable gases and liquids and high explosives to the list.

In arriving at the threshold level for each substance, EPA factored in toxicity, reactivity, volatility, dispersibility, combustibility and flammability, as well as the amount of the substance known or anticipated to cause death, injury, or serious adverse human health effects.

The rule also includes requirements for a petition process to be used to add or delete substances from the list of regulated substances. Petition requirements must include a detailed rationale to support the requested action and supporting data.