The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA or SARA Title III) requires the formation of Local or Regional Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs and REPCs). These committees are responsible for protecting their communities from incidents involving hazardous materials. This involves developing and updating emergency response plans and educating the community about chemical facilities and the actions that could be taken if there is a chemical accident.
LEPCs and REPCs are responsible for:
- Developing and maintaining hazardous material incident response plans with the jurisdiction(s). These plans must be reviewed annually.
- Ensuring that emergency responders (police, fire, emergency medical services, public works, etc.) are trained to the level indicated in the plan.— First responders must be trained to at least the awareness level.
- Exercising the plan annually.
- Creating and maintaining a system to collect, store, and respond to public requests for information.
To achieve full certification, LEPCs and REPCs must demonstrate, through an LEPC or REPC application, that the committee meets all the requirements of the EPCRA. The LEPC or REPC must include:
- Elected state and local officials
- Police, fire, civil defense, and public health professionals
- Environment, transportation, and hospital officials
- Facility representatives
- Representatives from community groups and the media
Applications must be submitted electronically to a Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) regional office.
Applications are reviewed and approved by the Statewide Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and EPC Liaison Committee. There are four levels of certification that can be awarded: start-up, provisional, full, or re-certification.
- Start-Up Certification — A committee that has agreed to meet the full certification criteria, but is not yet able to meet various criteria due to its newness. This certification is valid for two years.
- Provisional Certification — 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. This certification is valid for three years.
- Full Certification — A committee that meets all of the criteria set forth in the legislation and application process. This certification is valid for five years. A committee that qualifies for full certification must be in compliance with all 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, and SERC grants related to the SARA Title III, which can cover planning, training, and exercising. Qualified committees for communities that are listed as priority communities by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Priority Index may remain independent.
- Re-Certified Committee — A fully certified committee that continues to meet the EPCRA requirements. This re-certification is valid for five years.