Where to find EPCRA information - SERCs, TERCs, and LEPCs


The very first item in the EPCRA statutes is the establishment of State Emergency Response Commissions, or SERCs. The Governor of each state was required to appoint the SERC. The Governors were given an option to make one or more existing emergency response organizations that were state-sponsored or state-appointed the SERC. The Governors were required to try to appoint persons to the SERC who would have the technical expertise in the field of emergency response.

EPCRA Regulations Regarding Public Availability of Tier Two Reports

The SERCs appoint the LEPCs and supervise and coordinate the activities of the LEPCs. The SERCs were also charged with the duty of establishing procedures for receiving and processing requests for EPCRA information from the general public. These procedures had to include the designation of an official to serve as coordinator for information. In the event that a Governor did not appoint a SERC, the Governor had to serve as the SERC until one was created. SERCs are ultimately responsible to make sure that LEPCs make EPCRA information available to the public.

SERCs have the power to establish and determine the emergency planning districts in each state. In many states, each county is an emergency planning district. In some states, the emergency planning districts are broken into areas or regions that are not determined by county boundaries.

If the emergency planning areas involve more than one State, the SERCs of all the involved States may designate emergency planning districts and LEPCs by agreement. In such a scenario, the SERC must indicate which facilities subject to EPCRA reporting requirements are within this emergency planning district. A facility in this type of emergency planning district would not be expected to make the determination, or where to send its EPCRA reports.

SERCs may revise LEPC memberships, SERC memberships, and the emergency planning districts as it deems appropriate. It can make changes and adaptations. Interested persons may also petition the SERC to modify the membership of an LEPC.

SERCs may make decisions to designate additional facilities that must report under EPCRA, after proper public notice and opportunity for comment. If this happens, though, it is the responsibility of the SERC (or the Governor) to notify the facilities of the new requirements. An example of this would be to expand the emergency planning requirements of EHS facilities to those that have non-EHS chemicals.

Owners and operators of facilities with EHS chemicals at or above the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ) were required to notify the SERC of jurisdiction that the facility has these EHS chemicals no later than mid-1987 pursuant to EPCRA Section 302. After that, the owner or operator of any new facility with EHS chemicals at or above the TPQ, or of an established facility that begins having EHS chemicals above the TPQ, the notification that these EHS are on-site must be submitted to the SERC within 60 days.

The SERC must pass on this EHS facilities information to the EPA. If a state's law implementing EPCRA creates more stringent requirements than EPCRA, the SERC of that state must report to the EPA the additional facilities required to report under state that would not have to report under EPCRA.

A State or local official acting in an official capacity may have access to Tier Two information by submitting a request to the SERC or LEPC. Upon receipt of this official's request, the SERC or LEPC will request the Tier Two information from the facility and provide it to the official. If the facility has already filed its Tier Two report, the SERC or LEPC will just provide it to the official.

If the general public requests a facility's Tier Two Report through the SERC or LEPC, and the Tier Two Report is already on file, the Tier Two Report must be available during normal business hours for review and copying. If the facility's Tier Two Report is not on file with the SERC or LEPC, AND the facility had reportable quantities of a chemical, the person requesting the Tier Two Report must include the general need for the information. The SERC or LEPC may request this information, but this is discretionary. When it is received, the SERC or LEPC must make it available to the requesting person during normal business hours for review and copying.

A SERC or LEPC must respond to a request for Tier Two information with 45 days.

Any SERC or LEPC may bring civil suit against an owner or operator of a facility for failure to provide Tier Two information or for failure to provide emergency planning information needed for regional emergency plans. A fire department should be able to ask its LEPC or SERC to assist in getting needed Tier Two reports or other data, or it could use the citizen suit provision of the law to bring an enforcement action. A different route is provided under EPCRA to fire departments to bring a civil action to get the needed data. EPCRA allows any local government to commence a civil action against a facility for failing to provide:

  1. EPCRA Section 302 notification to the SERC;
  2. An MSDS or list of chemicals as required by EPCRA Section 311;
  3. Failure to make available information requested under EPCRA Section 311 (Example - provide a specific MSDS to the LEPC if the LEPC requests the MSDS after receiving a list of chemicals provided under EPCRA Section 311 requirements); and
  4. Failure to submit Tier One information as required by EPCRA Section 312.
The fire department might find it easier to have the LEPC or SERC to bring the civil action because the EPCRA law provides that the LEPC and SERC are the first recipient of this information. Unfortunately, there will be facilities on occasion that do not comply without enforcement or civil action, even after being told of EPCRA requirements.


The LEPC is an emergency planning body with jurisdiction over an emergency planning district. In most states, each county has an LEPC, and the emergency planning district is the entire county. In others, there are regional LEPCs, and there may be several counties or parts of counties in the LEPC district. The specifics of how the EPCRA law was implemented in the various states was left to the states, with some EPA oversight and review. The states can ask the EPA for assistance in setting up the various aspects of regional emergency planning and meeting the terms of the EPCRA law.

The LEPC is a volunteer group made up of representatives from certain interests charged with emergency planning duties. The EPCRA law requires that certain groups or organizations MUST be represented. The EPCRA law requires the LEPC to include, "at a minimum, representatives from each of the following groups or organizations: Elected State and local officials; law enforcement, civil defense, firefighting, first aid, health, local environmental, hospital and transportation personnel; broadcast and print media; community groups; and owners and operators of facilities subject to [EPCRA]." {Note the commas and semicolons.}

Sometimes LEPCs do not have all of the members required by EPCRA, but it is easy to see why these diverse entities are needed for an LEPC and EPCRA to work. It is also easy to see that getting all of these diverse interests to the same meeting at the same time can present a problem. But effective emergency planning and preparedness is in the best interests of everyone. Since many of the LEPC members come from government positions, there can be political influences on LEPC decisions. It is a good idea to attend the LEPC meetings and comment about the issue if some required positions are unrepresented, or if there is a detected bias counter to the goals of emergency planning. The idea behind the volunteer committee was that emergency planning and preparedness is a mutual concern, and that other agendas would not be present. Since 85% of the fire departments in America are volunteer fire departments, there may not be much or any staff to attend and participate in these LEPC meetings, but any involvement should be useful.

Active interest and participation in LEPC meetings is encouraged for all concerned. http://www.epa.gov/ceppo/lepclist.htm


The EPCRA law requires the LEPC to appoint a chairperson, and to establish rules by which the LEPC must function. These LEPC rules must address provisions for public notification of LEPC activities, public meetings to discuss the emergency plan, public comments, response to such public comments by the LEPC, and distribution of the emergency plan.


The LEPC must also establish procedures for receiving and processing requests from the public for EPCRA information (Tier Two Reports, written follow-up reports, MSDSs, emergency plans). This procedure must include the designation of an official to serve as a coordinator for EPCRA-related information. The public has an absolute Right to this information. While there can legally be a 45-day waiting period to view a requested Tier Two report, the MSDS information, facility and regional emergency plan, written follow-up report, all must be available at the LEPC during normal business hours. Generally, the public should request the information in writing, and preferably call for an appointment to review and copy the requested information. Fire departments are not a source of MSDS, Tier One, or Tier Two information to the public, even though the fire department is a recipient of these reports.

The public is encouraged by EPCRA to volunteer for the LEPC. A request for information and involvement should be encouraged. LEPC members are volunteering their time and working to make things safer for the community. Often, LEPCs will have fire department representatives. Diverse opinions on the LEPC can help make EPCRA work better for the community. LEPCs are likely to find many natural allies in the public when it comes to ideas for reducing hazards and risks in the community.

Studies of LEPCs have shown they are not very good at communicating risk to their communities. The Clean Air Act Amendments, Section 112r, the Risk Management Plan (RMP) was passed by Congress in part to address this. http://www.epa.gov/ceppo/acc-pre.html


The LEPC must complete an emergency plan that includes the information or takes into account the information from all the facility emergency plans submitted to it. The LEPC must review this LEPC emergency plan at least annually, or more frequently as changed circumstances in the community or at any facility may require. Ideally, if facilities are changing the amounts of EHS chemicals stored on-site, or change operations and have reportable quantities on-site, these changes will be communicated to the LEPC, fire department, and SERC immediately. Facilities using the BOLDER Project software will be able to do this electronically. The LEPC must publish the location and time of the annual meeting to review the overall emergency plan.


LEPCs are also charged with creating and implementing training programs for firefighters, emergency response and medical personnel, and other responders, complete with schedules for training. Many LEPCs have resource problems, and much of these LEPCs' resources are used to arrange this training and updated training. Many LEPCs are in rural areas where travel to training sites can use up d a disproportionate amount of resources, and leave fire departments temporarily understaffed in the event of an emergency while their firefighters are away getting training. And 85% of fire departments are volunteer fire departments, with responders who work other jobs. Volunteer firefighters may find it difficult to leave the area to get training.

Firefighters and responders may find these Internet training opportunities useful:


The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) offers free training, Go to the association's homepage at http://www.IAFF.org and click on HAZMAT, or just click on http://www.iaff.org/iaff/HAZMAT/hazmat.html.

The IAFF provides training by firefighters for firefighters, more or less peer training. Much of this is funded by grants from NIOSH (60%), EPA (18%) DOE (14%) and DOT (8%). The training is federally funded and FREE.

IAFF has produced 17 training programs to date, including all levels of training required by the Occupational Safety and Health regulations, and even some "Special Hazard" programs. The program components include texts, 35mm slides, videos, transparencies, handouts, and more. Since 1991, IAFF has directly trained over 20,000. Another 700,000 have been indirectly trained using IAFF materials.

IAFF's training is "defensive," not "offensive. It is designed to protect the health and safety of emergency responders and firefighters dealing with chemical emergencies. It involves the integration of safety principles designed at protecting health, first responder operations, and defensive skills.

IAFF's training uses direct training and instructor training, and course distribution, all free of charge.

The IAFF uses the Internet to advance its training. Case studies have been posted there, and course updates can actually be downloaded and inserted into courses that have been previously supplied, updating the older curricula. There is also refresher training available. A multimedia approach is used now also, including CD-ROMs and Powerpoint Presentations.

The future directions of IAFF's training include course updates, first responder awareness, and technician level training. Domestic Preparedness (Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism) training is also being prepared.

IAFF wants to expand its direct training, and has a special Recruit Training Initiative to train new firefighter recruits early in their careers. This IAFF training is FREE, and provides 24 contact hours of a highly informative and interactive training program. It provides basic defensive skills in hazmat operations, and exceeds the requirements of OSHA 1910.120 and NFPA 472 standards. This Recruit Training Initiative includes the provision of two top-quality instructors who have received extensive training in all aspects of Hazardous Materials Training for First Responders curriculum; and includes all the materials (text, slides, videos) needed for the training program at no cost to the sponsoring department. Up-to-date, revised, materials are sent every two years. The package includes field-tested pre and post course exams. This course strongly emphasizes health and safety principles for firefighters and paramedics.

Other programs offered by IAFF are Confined Space and EMS.

State of Oregon-Sponsored Web Site www.hmep.com

The state of Oregon has created a Web Site with the information, knowledge, and training to meet the needs of HMEP grantees. This web site is being developed and funded as a 'grass roots' effort by the State of Oregon's Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). The intent is to provide HAZWOPER training and information for all states currently receiving funds under HMEP. The site invites planning professionals to review the site and email comments and suggestions and help them make this site more responsive to the needs of planning professionals.

The site provides:

Training: Online Course/Examinations and a Catalog of training materials. Regulations: The latest up-to-date OSHA, NFPA, DOT, and EPA regulations. Important Links: Links to FEMA/HMEP and other important web sites for information critical to safety personnel. Discussions for Professional Planners: Join a discussion group and interact with instructors, industry experts and other HAZWOPER personnel. Opportunities to Download: Download free courseware and other information, including MSDSs and Worker Right-To-Know materials. HAZOPS Refresher Training Certification: Refresher training and testing for Hazardous Materials Operations Level, NFPA 472 and 29 CFR 1910.120(q)8.

This site even allows training and training administration in its databases. The site's HAZMAT Operations Level Refresher course and competency test meets 29CFR 1910.120(q)8 and the NFPA 472 Standard (Operations Level).

Administrators can direct their students to this Web Site, which will train and quiz the students at their convenience, and keep a record for the administrators. Access to the course and the test results are provided via an authorized login/password. There are plenty of quizzes. The Web Site can quiz and re-quiz the same student on the same module, scrambling the questions and answers so that the only way to actually pass the quiz is to understand the material. The script even has voice support--it reads to you. The site offers twelve modules and a comprehensive final exam. Each examination is unique, with questions drawn randomly from an Operations Level Question Database.

This training and administrative tracking is quite a useful service, especially for resource-poor LEPCs and volunteer firefighter organizations in frontier and rural areas. Time spent on the road to a distant training can now be spent at an Internet site, available 24 hours a day. Firefighters can refresh their training while at the station waiting for a call. If they must close out and respond, the site will save their work where they left off.

The Web Site address is: www.hmep.com

National Fire Academy Web Site

The National Fire Academy maintains a Web Site on the FEMA site at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/nfa/

Through its courses and programs, the National Fire Academy (NFA) works to enhance the ability of fire and emergency services and allied professionals to deal more effectively with fire and related emergencies. The Academy's delivery system is diverse. Courses are delivered at the resident facility in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and throughout the Nation in cooperation with State and local fire training organizations and local colleges and universities.


If a new EHS is suddenly introduced into the industrial base of a community, the firefighters and emergency response infrastructure may need to get specialized training and equipment in order to safely and properly deal with a spill or a release of the new EHS chemical. This can be true if there is suddenly a much larger amount of an EHS in a community so that it warrants special consideration. Alternatively, there is no point training responders and buying gear and equipment needed to fight a chemical incident that can't happen. By reviewing the provided inventory of facilities' Tier Two information, the LEPC should be able to determine regionally what equipment and gear is needed. It is important to include likely transportation routes of toxic materials such as major roadways or railroads in the plan.

It is not productive to create a boiler-plate regional emergency plan; a one-size-fits-all approach is the wrong approach. The purpose of the regional emergency plan is prepare and plan.

There may be other issues involved if the specialized training or equipment required for a response to a facility emergency puts a sudden or large financial burden on the emergency response infrastructure. Some communities believe that facilities creating the extra financial burden for effective chemical emergency preparedness should pay for the extra burden. Others may expect the taxpayers to pay. There might not be the fire department budget to adequately purchase the needed protective gear for firefighters or the specialized equipment needed. These issues are political and priority decisions for the community.

There is often a resource (money and time) problem with LEPCs, just as there is for fire departments. Some LEPCs do not have a paid support staff. Others are underfunded. There are grants available from the EPA and FEMA for emergency planning, but they do not cover the entire cost. Although some of the LEPC members are paid staff from fire departments, emergency planning agencies, industry, state and local government, these LEPC members are not often specifically assigned to work a large number of hours on LEPC-related work. The paid government bureaucracies that have oversight of wastewater and hazardous wastes, which are very diluted when compared to the pure chemicals used as raw materials in today's industrial processes, compare starkly with the unpaid volunteers who have oversight of the purer, more concentrated chemicals that travel the roadways and are stored in facilities. These chemicals usually have more potential of toxic impact upon release.

The SERC reviews the regional emergency plan prepared by the LEPCs under its jurisdiction. Then the SERC reviews all of these various LEPC emergency plans and makes recommendations on revisions to the regional emergency plans to ensure coordination of each LEPC's emergency plan with the plans of other emergency planning districts. Accidents can happen across LEPC boundary lines.


Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs) are another consideration for LEPCs, SERCs, and fire departments. LEPCs, SERCs, and even fire departments may have to work out mutual aid agreements or information and resource-sharing agreements with Native American reservations to implement EPCRA. A SERC and LEPC will not have jurisdiction over facilities on tribal lands unless there is some form of legally-binding agreement allowing this jurisdiction.

An operator or owner of a facility on an Indian reservation may not be sure to whom the facility's chemical inventory report and facility emergency plan must be reported. It may unclear what entity is going to respond in the event of an incident involving hazardous chemicals. The public may be unclear about which entity to approach for Community Right-To-Know information. If a TERC exists, it must provide access to the same EPCRA information that SERCs and LEPCs must provide.

The TERC will not likely exist already as a legal entity on an Indian reservation, because EPCRA became law after most tribal lands were designated. A tribal board or governing committee will likely have to create laws or ordinances implementing EPCRA. This also provides an opportunity for the TERC to have more stringent regulations than EPCRA. It is a bad idea for a tribe to not have a TERC or some other entity with the powers a SERC or LEPC has under EPCRA. There are proportionately more industrial facilities on tribal lands in America than on non-tribal lands, in terms of land area used and population. A TERC might be the only entity a facility would need to report to under EPCRA if the TERC fulfills the duties of a SERC, LEPC, and fire department. A TERC will usually have the combined powers given to SERCs, LEPCs, and fire departments under EPCRA.

The Gila River Indian Community, which is located south of Phoenix, Arizona, has drafted a good model implementing ordinance.

EPA has special programs to assist TERCs.


The Regional Response Teams [Federal EPA], which were created by CERCLA, may review and comment upon the emergency plan prepared by the LEPC, upon request from the LEPC. The regional response teams may also, upon request from the LEPC, review and comment on other issues related to the preparation, implementation, or exercise of the emergency plan. There are excellent source materials for emergency planning provided by the National Response Team and available at no charge at the EPCRA Hotline. Anyone can call the Hotline -- it offers information to a broad audience of callers with diverse backgrounds and varying degrees of regulatory knowledge. To speak with Information Specialists about regulatory questions or to order documents, call: (800) 424-9346, (800) 424-9346 or DC Area Local (703) 412-9810 or TDD (800) 553-7672 or TDD DC Area Local (703) 412-3323 (Some of the EPCRA Hotline's Information and the Guide to EPA's Electronic Resources is available on the Internet at: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hotline/cercla.htm

Ask for the NRT-1 "Hazardous Materials Emergency Planning Guide" published March 1987; and NRT-1A, "Criteria for Review of Hazardous Materials Emergency Plans" published in May 1988. These "orange books" are quite comprehensive, and comparing the LEPC's emergency plan to the comments and information in these guidebooks is a good idea.

The EPCRA regulations regarding LEPC Infrastructure and Tier Two Reports are on the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/docs/epacfr40/chapt-I.info/subch-J/40P0370.pdf


There is more to emergency planning and emergency planning information pertinent to the community than just the information available from EPCRA. Fire departments have their own Uniform Fire Code, which is reviewed and changed, and later adopted by fire departments and municipalities (towns, cities). The fire code should be available at the reference department of the local library. Is your fire department's fire code up to date?

The lack of a fire diamond is not definite evidence that dangerous chemicals are not at a facility. EPCRA does not require fire diamonds to be posted, but any good facility emergency planning should include posting of fire diamonds or other indicators as required by the local fire department. The Uniform Fire Code requires fire diamonds or other similar postings, but in some cases a local fire department does not adopt the Uniform Fire Code, or is behind in updating these requirements. There may also be a backlog in facility fire inspections that keeps inspectors from the fire department from noticing that a fire diamond is missing. Facilities should also be sure to post fire diamonds so that when facility doors are opened, shut, or left open, the fire diamond is still easily and readily visible.