In 1986 Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, Public Law 99-499, commonly known as EPCRA or SARA Title III. Section 301(a) of the legislation required each governor to appoint a state emergency response commission (SERC) by April of 1987. Section 301(b) charged the SERCs with the responsibility of dividing the states into planning districts and Section 301(c) for appointing local emergency planning committees (LEPCs). In 1987, the Massachusetts State Emergency Response Commission, in compliance with the new legislation, designated each MEMA sub-area as planning districts and appointed a Local Emergency Planning Committee for each city and town within them. The legislation required that the committees have representation from a specified number of interest groups.
The mission of an LEPC can be summarized as follows:
- A response plan must be written for responding to a hazardous material incident with the jurisdiction(s). It must also be reviewed annually.
- Emergency responders (police, fire, emergency medical services, public works, etc.) must be trained to levels indicated in the plan. At a minimum, first responders must be trained to the awareness level.
- The emergency response plan must be exercised at least once a year.
- The committee must create a system to collect, store, and respond to public requests.
PURPOSE OF CERTIFICATION PROCESS
The certification process was created by the Massachusetts SERC to be a management tool and a standard by which all LEPCs in the Commonwealth are judged equally, and was designed to ensure all LEPCs are meeting the goals and missions of SARA Title III. This process encourages both individual communities and regional committees (comprised of multiple communities) to apply for certification to document they are meeting the requirements of the SERC and SARA. The process involves submitting a completed application and the documentation related to it. The process will encourage more efficient use of limited funding to meet the goals of SARA Title III. It also documents for the SERC area that need improvement within the overall framework of local and regional LEPCs. Needs that are identified by this process can be targeted for special attention in the various SERC funding and technical programs.
LEVELS OF CERTIFICATION
There are three levels of certification: full, provisional, and start-up. The application shall indicate which level is being applied for.
A committee that meets the criteria set forth in the legislation and application process. This certification would be valid for 3 years. A committee meeting the full certification level would be in compliance with all the relevant SARA Title III regulations and SERC directives. In addition, it would be eligible to apply for EPA CERCLA Sec. 123 reimbursement grants for Local Governments for Emergency Response to Hazardous Substance Releases. This committee may also apply for limited funding available via SERC grants related to the SARA Title III, including planning, training, exercising, etc. Committees for communities who are listed as priority communities by the EPA Priority Index may remain independent if they wish to remain so if they meet the committee criteria.
A committee that meets most of the criteria set forth in the legislation and application process. This committee would be eligible for funding to meet the remaining application needs only. This certification would be valid for two years only.
A committee that has agreed to meet the criteria set forth in the Full certification criteria, but is not able to meet various criteria due to the newness of the committee. This certification is valid for one year only. Certification for SARA Title III activities will be limited to meeting the committee certification criteria activities only.
A committee that either does not meet the minimum criteria for certification or has not applied for certification. This committee will not be eligible for funding. It will also be subject to inclusion in an existing LEPC at some point in the future.