Not all hazardous substances are confined to firms, organizations, or laboratories; some are commonly used across society. However, using these products without understanding their potential adverse effects can pose serious risks. To enhance community safety in handling hazardous substances, the United States Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).


The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) is a key U.S. law designed to improve public safety and protect the environment. Passed by Congress in 1986, it responds to concerns about chemical hazards. EPCRA requires facilities handling hazardous chemicals to report certain information and encourages emergency planning and community awareness.


The EPCRA Act is helpful for every facility that manufactures, uses, or even stores chemical products. But what exactly is it, and what are its benefits? Continue exploring the blog as it has all the answers that you need to know in detail.


What is the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)?


Toxic chemicals need to be stored and released in a certain manner. A slight carelessness can prove to be dangerous and fatal for many. Above all, it’s not at all environmentally friendly. To respond to such concerns and to raise public awareness Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), authorized by Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA Title III). 


Historical Background:


In 1984, Bhopal, India, experienced a severe gas leak disaster, causing thousands of immediate deaths and long-term health issues for many more. It remains one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. To prevent such incidents in the United States, Congress established requirements for federal, state, and local governments, tribes, and industry and passed the EPCRA Act.

Congress’s requirements include emergency planning and “Community Right-to-Know” reporting on hazardous chemicals. These provisions ensure the public has access to information about chemicals at facilities, their uses, and their releases into the environment. States and communities can use this information to work with facilities to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment.


Key Components of Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA):


The EPCRA comes with the following 5 key provisions. Check them out to learn more.  


  • Emergency Planning (Sections 301 to 303): 

Local and Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs and TEPCs) must create and review chemical emergency response plans every year. State and Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs and TERCs) oversee and coordinate these local planning efforts. Facilities with Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS) in quantities above threshold levels must help prepare these emergency plans.


  • Emergency Notification (Section 304): 


It says that facilities must quickly report any accidental releases of Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS) and CERCLA hazardous substances. If these substances are released in quantities above the Reportable Quantities (RQs), they must notify state, tribal, and local officials. A detailed follow-up written report must also be provided as soon as possible after the release. These reports must be made available to the public by SERCs, TERCs, LEPCs, and TEPCs.


  • Community Right-to-Know Requirements (Sections 311 and 312): 


According to this provision, facilities that handle or store hazardous chemicals must submit Safety Data Sheets (SDS) to their SERC or TERC, LEPC or TEPC, and local fire department. The Occupational Safety and Health Act defines hazardous chemicals. SDSs provide details about the properties and health effects of these chemicals. An inventory form for these chemicals should also be submitted to SERC or TERC, LEPC or TEPC, and local fire departments.


Facilities must complete and submit a toxic chemical release inventory form (Form R) every year. They must do this for each of the over 600 TRI chemicals that are manufactured or used above the threshold quantities.


  • Trade Secrets (Section 322): 

Facilities can withhold the specific chemical identity from reports filed under sections 303, 311, 312, and 313 of EPCRA. To do this, they must submit a claim with supporting documentation to the EPA.


Benefits of EPCRA:


The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was established to help organizations safely manage hazardous chemicals. Here are some of its key benefits:


  • Enhanced Public Safety: 


EPCRA ensures that communities are well-informed about chemical hazards in their area. This allows for better preparedness and response to emergencies. Having access to detailed information about hazardous chemicals stored and used nearby is helpful for all the residents. They can take proactive steps to protect themselves and their families. This knowledge helps create effective emergency plans and raise awareness about potential risks, ultimately enhancing public safety.


  • Improved Emergency Planning: 

The act mandates the creation of emergency response plans by local and tribal committees. This way it ensures that all the effective measures are in place to handle chemical accidents. These committees, known as Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (TEPCs), are responsible for developing comprehensive emergency response strategies. Thus, the identification of potential chemical hazards becomes possible and simpler. By coordinating with local emergency services and conducting regular drills and training sessions, it’s possible to ensure readiness in case of an incident.


  • Increased Transparency: 

Facilities are required to report on the storage, use, and release of hazardous chemicals. This allows for providing valuable information to the public and fostering transparency. This reporting is done through the submission of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and inventory forms. The information is made accessible to state and local authorities, as well as the public. This way it helps promote open discussions about chemical safety. It encourages facilities to maintain high standards of environmental and health protection.


  • Environmental Protection:

By monitoring and controlling the release of toxic chemicals, EPCRA helps protect the environment from potential contamination and degradation. That’s why it has mandated that all facilities must report any accidental releases of hazardous substances and take immediate action to mitigate their impact. This proactive approach not only prevents environmental damage but also promotes sustainable practices. The act’s emphasis on transparency and accountability encourages facilities to adopt cleaner technologies and reduce their overall chemical footprint.


  • Health Risk Reduction:

Access to information about chemical hazards helps communities and workers take appropriate precautions. It also reduces health risks associated with exposure to dangerous substances. Moreover, the detailed knowledge about the properties and potential dangers of chemicals allows for the implementation of proper safety measures. For instance, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and adherence to safe handling procedures should be well known to everyone. This significantly lowers the risk of acute and chronic health issues caused by chemical exposure, contributing to a healthier workforce and community.


  • Regulatory Compliance:

EPCRA provides a clear framework for facilities to follow. This is to ensure that they comply with federal, state, and local regulations regarding hazardous chemicals. Thus, avoiding legal and financial penalties becomes easier and simpler. By adhering to the act’s reporting and planning requirements, facilities demonstrate their commitment to safety and regulatory compliance. This not only helps them avoid fines and sanctions but also enhances their reputation. Moreover, it fosters trust with stakeholders, including employees, customers, and the community.


  • Community Engagement:

EPCRA fosters active community engagement by ensuring that residents have a say in local emergency planning and chemical safety initiatives. Through public meetings and the availability of chemical information, communities can voice their concerns. They can even ask questions and collaborate with local authorities and facilities to improve safety measures. This empowerment leads to a more vigilant and proactive community that is better equipped to handle chemical emergencies. 


  • Enhanced Industry Accountability:

This act requires facilities to report on their chemical management regularly. It promotes transparency and accountability. This motivates facilities to uphold high safety and environmental standards. By following EPCRA guidelines, facilities can prove their commitment to responsible chemical handling. Besides, it enhances their reputation and builds trust with the public, regulators, and other stakeholders.


The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Amendments:


On October 23, 2018, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (AWIA) updated EPCRA. The amendment was made to improve how emergency releases of hazardous chemicals are reported and managed. The following points will explain the changes, so take a look.


  • Community water systems must promptly receive notifications of any release of an EPCRA extremely hazardous substance.
  • Notifications should also be sent about the release of CERCLA hazardous substances that could impact their source water.
  • The Community water systems are also entitled to access Tier II information. It includes data on hazardous chemical inventories.



The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) plays a pivotal role in safeguarding communities from chemical hazards. Besides, it promotes environmental responsibility. By fostering emergency preparedness, transparency, and public engagement, EPCRA empowers communities to mitigate risks associated with hazardous chemicals effectively.

Understanding EPCRA and all of its sections is necessary for every facility that has to handle hazardous chemicals. Therefore, consider each point that we have elaborated here. For more information on EPCRA requirements and how they apply to your organization, consult with regulatory authorities or visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s EPCRA webpage. This will help your facility understand all the regulatory needs and rules easily.