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Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act [EPCRA]

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the origin and goals of the EPCRA regulation.
  • Identify the four specific types of chemicals listed in the regulation.
  • Identify the emergency planning requirements of Section 302 and 303.
  • Identify the emergency release notification requirements of Section 304, including release possibilities at a facility.
  • Identify the requirements and exemptions for SDS submissions in Section 311 and chemical inventory reporting in Section 312, specifically Tier II reporting.
  • Identify the requirements of toxic chemical release reporting in Section 313.

Available in English

30 minutes

Mobile Ready


Around 480 chemical facilities put 100,000 or more people at risk in surrounding communities, as well as the workers within the plants

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


Emergency planning is critical for operations that handle or produce significant quantities of hazardous materials. Because of the danger to employees working at these facilities and to the general public presented by the harmful release of hazardous materials, likes noxious, combustible gases and waste, people have a right to know about the potential for danger involved in related operations.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986 was created to help communities plan for emergencies involving hazardous substances. EPCRA requires hazardous chemical emergency planning by federal, state and local governments, Indian tribes, and industry. It also requires industry to report on the storage, use and releases of hazardous chemicals to federal, state, and local governments.”

Goals of EPCRA

  • Prepare state and local organizations to respond to accidental releases of a hazardous substance;
  • Ensure adequate and timely notification to communities in the event of a release;
  • Enable state and local authorities to plan for and respond to releases and to act as clearing houses for public information;
  • Identify the current condition of the environment and determine the need for additional environmental initiatives;

A facility’s obligation to comply with EPCRA reporting requirements generally depends on the type of facility, the amount and type of hazardous chemical or hazardous substance, and activities that involve a chemical or hazardous substance.

The regulations are driven by the presence or release of four very specific types of chemicals listed in EPCRA. They include hazardous substances, extremely hazardous substances, OSHA Hazardous Chemicals, and Toxic Chemicals.

Hazardous substances are defined as those substances which possess the most significant potential threat to human health due to their known or suspected toxicity and potential for human exposure, like benzene and cadmium, for example.

Facilities that possess extremely hazardous substances at or in excess of the threshold planning quantity are subject to the reporting requirements in EPCRA.  An example of an extremely hazardous substance is sulfuric acid. Toxic chemical examples include chromium, nickel, and cobalt. 

Emergency Release Notification

  • Determines when a facility must report an unplanned or accidental release of specific regulated substances to the environment

What is an EPCRA Emergency Release?

Any unplanned release, of regulated chemicals into the land, air, or water in excess of the reportable quantity within 24 hours that requires an emergency release notification.

Which Chemicals Require Emergency Release Notification?

  • Extremely Hazardous Substance (EHS)
  • Hazardous Substance (HS)

If there is accidental release of an extremely hazardous substance or hazardous substance in excess of their reportable quantity, immediately contact the National Response Center (if the chemical is a hazardous substance), the Local Emergency Planning Commission of any area likely to be affected, and the State Emergency Response Commission of any state likely to be affected.

You do not need to report a release if it is:

  • A Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)-reported continuous release;
  • Covered by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) wastewater permit;
  • Covered by an air-emissions permit;
  • Authorized through Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) as a stored or disposed-of hazardous waste;
  • A correctly applied pesticide (Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, FIFRA, registered);
  • Completely contained within a building or other structure (If there is a chance that anyone outside the building can be exposed, the release must be reported).

What condition would require Emergency Release Notification?

  • The managed release of regulated chemicals to the environment through permits, planned discharges, etc.
  • An accidental release of a regulated chemical to the environment above the reportable quantity that occurs within a 24 hour period;
  • The presence of extremely hazardous substances exceeding the threshold planning quantity;
  • The storage of an OSHA hazardous chemical.

On the other hand, non-hazardous solid substances such as bricks and aluminum ingots stored at any one time at the facility in excess of 10,000 lbs. must be reported on the Tier II form if the manufacturing process causes exposure.

A facility is required under Section 311 to submit SDSs the first time they exceed a threshold reporting quantity for an extremely hazardous substance or hazardous chemical. This is a one-time report.

This report must be submitted within 90 days of storing a new extremely hazardous substance or hazardous chemical on site which exceeds the threshold reporting quantity instead of submitting an SDS for every chemical above the threshold reporting quantity you may submit a list of the chemicals. SDS submissions (or the list of chemicals) required in Section 311 must be submitted to the SERC, the LEPC, and the local fire department.

Course Outline
  • Introduction
  • Origin and Goals of EPCRA
  • Overview of EPCRA Sections and Listed Chemicals
  • Emergency Planning
  • Emergency Release Notification
  • SDS Submissions and Chemical Inventory (Tier II)
  • Toxic Chemical Release Reporting (Form R)
Regulations
  • Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)/SARA Title III, 40CFR-Subchapter J: Sections 301-303, 304, 313-312, 313
  • 40 CFR 302.4
  • 40 CFR 355 Appendix A & B
  • 40 CFR 372.65
  • Section 302.4