Emergency Planning and
Community Right-To-Know Act

Please note that this page refers to federal requirements.  State and local regulations may differ.



The Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act  (EPCRA) is the name applied to Title III of a broader law, the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), enacted in 1986.

SARA was passed to amend an earlier law, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which had created a program for the cleanup of toxic waste sites (the "Superfund" program).  However, shortly before SARA was passed, a release of toxic gases from an industrial facility in Bhopal, India caused over 2000 deaths, and sensitized the U.S. public to potential dangers wherever large quantities of toxic chemicals were stored and used.  An extra section not immediately related to toxic waste cleanup, Title III, was added to SARA to address these concerns.

EPCRA was designed to promote emergency planning and preparedness at both the state and local level.  It provides citizens, local governments, and local response authorities with information regarding the potential hazards in their community (sometimes referred to as "Community Right-to-Know").  EPCRA requires any facility that is using or storing certain specific chemicals to inform state and local agencies that it is subject to EPCRA requirements.  It also established various additional reporting obligations.

The list of chemicals covered under EPCRA is called the list of "Extremely Hazardous Substances" (EHS).  There are currently over 300 chemicals on the list.  EPA provides a "List of Lists Database" that lists each chemical, together with a toxicity and regulatory profile, and a first aid guide.

EPCRA requirements that are likely to be relevant to healthcare facilities are discussed below..

Emergency planning (EPCRA Sections 302 and 303)

Any healthcare facility that has any chemical listed on the extremely hazardous substances list at or above its planning threshold quantity must:

  • Notify the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) within 60 days of receiving the shipment (or producing the substance) on site
  • Designate a facility representative who will participate in the emergency planning process with the LEPC
  • Provide requested information to enable the LEPC to develop and implement the emergency plan

Emergency release notification (EPCRA Section 304)

If there is a reportable release into the environment of a hazardous substance, healthcare facilities must provide:

  • an emergency notification
  • a written follow-up notice to the LEPC and SERC for any area likely to have been affected

A release is reportable under EPCRA Section 304 if the amount of hazardous substance releases meets or exceeds the minimum reportable quantity set in the regulations. Two types of chemicals fall under this regulation: 1) extremely hazardous substances; and 2) CERCLA hazardous substances.

Annual inventory (EPCRA Sections 311 and 312)

Under EPCRA Section 311 requirements, healthcare facilities must submit copies of hazardous chemical material safety data sheets (MSDS) or a list of MSDS chemicals to the LEPC, SERC, and local fire department.  Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, employers must maintain an MSDS for any hazardous chemical stored or used in the work place.

Under EPCRA Section 312, healthcare facilities that meet Section 311 requirements for a hazardous chemical must submit an annual inventory report for that chemical. The inventory report (called a Tier II report) must be submitted to the LEPC, SERC, and local fire department by March 1 of each year.

Certain chemicals are exempt from the EPCRA Section 311 and 312 definition of a hazardous chemical.  One exemption that applies to the healthcare industry is concerns medical and research lab materials.  Note that certain conditions must be satisfied in order for this exemption to apply.  The substance must be used in a research laboratory or a hospital or other medical facility under the direct supervision of a "technically qualified individual".  To meet the definition of a technically qualified individual, a person must be:

  • capable of understanding the health and environmental risks associated with the chemical substance that is used under his or her supervision because of education, training, or experience, or a combination of these factors
  • responsible for enforcing appropriate methods of conducting scientific experimentation, analysis, or chemical research to minimize such risks
  • responsible for the safety assessments and clearances related to the procurement, storage, use, and disposal of the chemical substance as may be appropriate or required within the scope of conducting a research and development activity

EPCRA requirements do not apply to materials being transported. Therefore, materials being distributed or stored incidental to transportation (i.e., under active shipping papers) would not be included in a facility threshold determination under Sections 311 and 312.   However, spill reporting requirements under Section 304 would still apply to all materials, whether in transit or not.

Toxic Release Inventory (EPCRA Section 313)

Companies that use more than a certain minimum amount of any of a long list of toxic chemicals are required to submit a form every year to EPA detailing how much of each chemical was emitted or disposed of during the preceding year.  The EPA makes that information public in a database called the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).  It has turned out to be one of the most effective tools for convincing manufacturers to put some serious effort into waste reduction.  No one likes to be identified in local newspaper headlines as the biggest polluter in the neighborhood.

Not all companies have to report under TRI.  The reporting requirement depends in part on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) of the facility.  The healthcare industry primarily falls under SIC codes that include:

  • 80xx (hospitals and doctors’ offices/clinics)
  • 83xx (social services)
  • 8734 (veterinary testing laboratories).
  • 0741 and 0742 (veterinary services)
  • 4119 (land ambulances)
  • 4522 (air ambulances)

None of these SIC codes are required to file TRI reports under EPCRA Section 313.

There are some cases, however, in which facilities that might appear to be in the healthcare sector actually do have to report.  For example, federal facilities are subject to EPCRA Section 313.  These would include federal hospitals such as veterans’ hospitals, military hospitals, or clinics in federal prisons.

Also, a healthcare facility might be considered to be an "auxiliary facility" if it is primarily engaged in supporting the activities of another establishment.  If the healthcare facility meets this definition, and if the establishment it supports is required to file TRI reports under EPCRA, then the healthcare facility must also report its TRI data.

Typical records an EPA inspector may ask to review under EPCRA

The typical records a local or state authority or EPA inspector may ask to review during an EPCRA inspection include:

  • Proof of notification for all environmental releases of a listed hazardous substance. "Failure to notify" violation will be sited if the National Response Center, State Hotline, and LEPC is not notified in a timely fashion.
  • Emergency Response Plans
  • MSDSs
  • Tier I or Tier II inventory reporting forms. This inspection is done together with the MSDS. The inspector will look at what materials are stored and in what quantity and if they are subject to reporting requirements. The federal government prefers the more detailed Tier II inventory form.
  • EPA Toxic Release Inventory Form R for federal healthcare facilities report on every chemical manufactured, processed, or used. Form R contains facility identification information and chemical specific information (toxic chemical identity; mixture component; activity and uses; maximum amount of chemical on site during calendar year; quantity; transfers; discharges; on-site waste treatment; on-site energy recovery; onsite recycling; source reduction/recycling).

More information

EPA’s TRI web site.

EPA’s CERCLA website.

"List of Lists" is a consolidated list of chemicals subject to EPCRA and CAA Section 112(r) used to help facilities handling chemicals determine whether they need to submit reports under Sections 302, 304, 311, 312, or 313 of EPCRA and, for a specific chemical, what reports may need to be submitted. It will also help facilities determine whether they will be subject to accident prevention regulations under CAA Section 112(r) and lists "unlisted hazardous wastes" under RCRA.

Computer Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO).  CAMEO's primary users include firefighters, State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) and Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs), industry, schools, environmental organizations, and police departments.

©2015 Healthcare Environmental Resource Center