Protecting Communities from Chemical Accidents: Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act


This training video aims to raise awareness of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) to new generations of planners and responders, state, tribal, and local political officials, emergency management leadership and the public. It presents a basic level of understanding of the roles and requirements of EPCRA to maintain effective participation to protect communities from chemical accidents.

To plan and prepare for catastrophic incidents such as the 1984 Bhopal, India and the 1985 Institute, West Virginia releases, Congress enacted EPCRA in 1986 to build an emergency planning infrastructure centered in each community. EPCRA formed State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) and Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs)—creating approximately 3,500 local emergency planning districts and appointing Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (TEPCs) to engage communities in emergency planning. These LEPCs and TEPCs are made up of various professionals, including first responders, facility owners/operators, and citizens who are primarily volunteers in need of a fundamental understanding of EPCRA to fully participate in community emergency planning. LEPCs and TEPCs receive support and coordination from SERCs and TERCs to establish procedures for processing public requests for information under EPCRA. These LEPCs and TEPCs were also created to serve as the repository of information on chemicals that pose a hazard to the community and develop emergency plans in the event of a potential incident.

Despite the existence of EPCRA and emergency planning requirements, catastrophic incidents continue to impact communities, causing fatalities, injuries and exposures to toxic chemicals. Two notable incidents occurred in West, Texas in 2013 and Charleston, West Virginia in 2014. The West Fertilizer incident set in motion Executive Order (E.O.) 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, which called for enhancing state and local infrastructure for chemical preparedness and response created in EPCRA by strengthening SERCs, TERCs, LEPCs and TEPCs. The Freedom Industries drinking water contamination incident resulted in amending EPCRA by requiring SERCs and LEPCs to provide release notification and chemical inventory information to the community water systems.

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