The Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) was passed by Congress after the 1984 disaster at a Union Carbide facility at Bhopal, India. That world-famous disaster involved a release of a large amount of methyl isocyanate, which quickly killed over a thousand people and permanently sickened thousands more. This was followed shortly by a release of the same chemical, methyl isocyanate, at a Union Carbide facility located at Institute, West Virginia. Congress responded by passing the Emergency Planning & Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) as part of the Superfund Amendments Re-Authorization Act (SARA Title III) in 1986. The idea was to prevent a similar accident from taking place again with the emphasis on planning and preparing in advance for chemical releases. This legislation had been discussed for some time, and these incidents triggered the final passage of the legislation.
(For more information about the Bhopal, India, and Institute, West Virginia, chemical incidents go to http://www.csb.gov/lib/bhopal01.htm)
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) law provided an infrastructure at the state and local levels to plan for chemical emergencies. Facilities that have spilled hazardous substances, or that store, use, or release certain chemicals, are subject to various reporting requirements. All of this information is made publicly available so that interested parties may become informed about potentially dangerous chemicals in their community. Common EPCRA topics include: emergency planning; hazardous chemical inventory reporting; public access to chemical information; toxic chemical release reporting and the Form R; and the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) database.