HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
The LEPC is a product of federal legislation that was passed after the Bhopal disaster in India, where thousands of people died because of an accident involving an accidental release of a hazardous chemical. To prevent similar occurrences in our own communities, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), also known as the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA Title III), in 1986. EPCRA has four major provisions: Emergency Planning (Sections 301-303); Emergency Release Notification (Section 304); Hazardous Chemical Storage Reporting Requirements (Sections 311-312); and Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (Section 313). The Community Right-to-Know (CRTK)provisions in EPCRA help increase public knowledge and provide them access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and release into the environment. The Kansas Legislature also enacted Right-to-Know laws that are very similar to the existing federal Right-to-Know laws. As a result, states and communities, working with industry, are better able to protect public health and the environment.
Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) work to understand the hazards in the community, develop emergency plans in case of an accidental release or natural disaster, and look for ways to prevent accidents. The role of LEPCs is to form a partnership between local governments and industries to enhance all-hazards preparedness. The local government is responsible for all-hazards planning and response within their jurisdiction. This includes:
- ensuring the local hazard analysis adequately addresses all-hazards incidents;
- incorporating planning for all-hazards incidents into the local emergency operations plan and annexes;
- assessing capabilities and developing all-hazards response capability using local resources, mutual aid and contractors;
- training responders; and
- exercising the plan.
Industry must be a part of this planning process to ensure facility plans are compatible with local emergency plans. Every regulated facility is responsible for:
- identifying a facility emergency coordinator;
- reporting hazmat inventories annually to the CEPR, LEPC, and local fire department;
- providing material safety data sheets (MSDS) or a list of hazardous chemicals;
- allowing local fire departments to conduct on-site inspection of hazmat facilities; and
- providing annual report of toxic chemicals released, to EPA and the State.
LEPCs are crucial to community right-to-know programs and all-hazards planning. Members of the LEPC represent the various organizations, agencies, departments, facilities, and/or other groups within the district. The membership comes from the local area and should be familiar with factors that affect public safety, the environment, and the economy of the community. In addition to its formal duties, the LEPC serves as a focal point in the community for information and discussions about hazardous substances and natural disaster emergency planning and health and environmental risks.