What is EPCRA?

Overview                                                                                                                            

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was passed by Congress in response to concerns regarding the environmental and safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. These concerns were triggered by the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India, caused by an accidental release of methylisocyanate. The release killed or severely injured more than 2000 people.

To reduce the likelihood of such a disaster in the United States, Congress imposed requirements for federal, state and local governments, tribes, and industry. These requirements covered emergency planning and "Community Right-to-Know" reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals. The Community Right-to-Know provisions help increase the public's knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment. States and communities, working with facilities, can use the information to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment.

Key Provisions of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act

Sections 301 to 303. Emergency Planning - Local governments are required to prepare chemical emergency response plans, and to review plans at least annually. State governments are required to oversee and coordinate local planning efforts. Facilities that maintain Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS) on-site in quantities greater than corresponding threshold planning quantities must cooperate in emergency plan preparation.

Section 304. Emergency Notification - Facilities must immediately report accidental releases of EHS chemicals and "hazardous substances" in quantities greater than corresponding Reportable Quantities (RQs) defined under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to state and local officials. Information about accidental chemical releases must be available to the public. See also Continuous Release Reporting.

Sections 311 and 312. Community Right-to-Know Requirements - Facilities manufacturing, processing, or storing designated hazardous chemicals must make Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) available to state and local officials and local fire departments.  MSDSs describe the properties and health effects of these chemicals. Facilities must also report, to state and local officials and local fire departments, inventories of all on-site chemicals for which MSDSs exist. Information about chemical inventories at facilities and MSDSs must be available to the public.

Section 313. Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) - Facilities must complete and submit a toxic chemical release inventory form (Form R) annually. Form R must be submitted for each of the over 600 TRI chemicals that are manufactured or otherwise used above the applicable threshold quantities. 

Section 322. Trade Secrets - Facilities are allowed to withhold the specific chemical identity from the reports filed under sections 303, 311, 312 and 313 of EPCRA if the facilities submit a claim with substantiation to EPA. 

Full Text of EPCRA