Emergency planners chronically face a daunting task with inadequate resources and funding. State legislatures may provide some funding, and in some jurisdictions there are fee-based reporting systems to help with the costs of emergency planning. But federal dollars are needed also. The HMEP grants are an important source.
Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) Grants
The Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) grant program is intended to provide financial and technical assistance as well as national direction and guidance to enhance State and local hazardous materials emergency planning and training. The Grant Program distributes fees collected from shippers and carriers of hazardous materials to emergency responders for HazMat training and to local emergency planning committees (LEPCs) for HazMat planning.
The HMEP grant program evolved from a proposal developed by DOT, FEMA, EPA, DOL/OSHA, and DOE. It was presented to Congress during the legislative process to reauthorize the HMTA of 1974. Federal Hazardous Material law (FHML) creates an appropriate role for the Federal government to provide financial, technical assistance, national direction, and guidance to enhance State and local hazardous materials emergency planning and training.
The HMEP grant program is carefully crafted to build upon existing programs and relationships. It increases the emphasis on transportation in ongoing efforts. The HMEP grant program was designed to support the framework and working relationships established within the National Response System and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986 (SARA Title III).
FHML authorizes $5 million in annual planning grants to States, Territories and Native American tribes - with a 75% pass-through of funds to LEPCs. These planning grants are to be used for: 1) developing, improving, and implementing emergency plans under Title III; 2) conducting commodity flow studies; and 3) determining the need for regional hazardous material response teams.
FHML provides $7.8 million in annual training grants to States, Territories and Native American tribes - with 75% of the funding used to provide training to local responders, including volunteers. 85% of fire departments are volunteer fire departments. Training grants are to be used for training public sector employees to respond safely and efficiently to accidents and incidents including those involving the transportation of hazardous materials.
Using curriculum guidelines prepared by a national consensus process, States qualify courses they use for hazardous materials training. The list of courses mandated by Congress consists of State qualified courses. In this way, a national list of courses will be generated in full partnership with the States. Assistance is being given to States in using the qualification mechanism contained in the curriculum guidelines.
Since the beginning of the program approximately $26 million has been awarded in HMEP grants. Over 454,000 responders and others have been trained in part thus far with HMEP grant funds.
Over 1,700 copies of the HMEP Curriculum guidelines have been distributed to grantees and local fire departments on a request basis (telephone (301) 447-1009 for a copy). The first public edition of the curriculum guidelines was distributed in March 1994. Grantees will use these guidelines to qualify courses for the list of courses mandated by Congress. Assistance is being provided to grantees in using the guidelines to qualify their courses. The first draft list of Grantee Assessed Hazardous Materials response Courses was published in April 1996.
A telephone survey indicates 3.2 million responders need training, much greater than earlier estimated. 43% of grantees are studying increases in response teams using HMEP funds.
For complete details, go to the information on FEMA's website: www.fema.gov/EMI/HMEP
Most local governments (towns, townships, cities, municipalities, counties, parishes) do not know that there is a reimbursement program. Any federally-recognized Indian tribe is also eligible. States are not eligible for reimbursement.
This is a fund of last resort, after the PRP (primarily responsible party), insurance, and/or state have all refused reimbursement.
A maximum of $25,000 may be reimbursed per incident for costs incurred responding to a HazMat incident. To qualify, the HazMat incident must involve the release or threatened release of a CERCLA Hazardous Substance. (Refer to Title III List of Lists for specific chemicals.)
The reimbursement covers:
Overtime pay for employees
Expendable materials and supplies
Replacement for lost or destroyed equipment
Rental or leasing of equipment
Special technical and laboratory services
Decontamination of equipment
Examples of incidents covered by the program include:
Releases from transportation incidents
Illegally dumped wastes
Contamination from illegal drug labs
Certification is required on the application. This certification is that:
All costs were accurate and were incurred for the response;
The reimbursement does not supplant normally budgeted funds;
Cost recovery was pursued; and
Any reimbursement funds that are later recovered will be returned.
There is a 60-90 day turnaround time after the submittal of a completed application. The application must be submitted within one year of the incident for which the reimbursement is sought, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
The application is four pages, and supporting documentation must be attached, with the signature of the highest-ranking official.
EPA has a toll-free HelpLine (1-800-431-9209) for the Local Governments Reimbursement (LGR) Program. Contact the HelpLine to obtain information and request an application package, to request assistance in completing an application, and to check the status of an application.