There are several programs that require a facility owner to keep the public and response authorities informed of its activities.  This is done in part to induce "good neighbor" oriented management of potentially hazardous materials and processes, in part to better prepare for potential accidents and emergencies, and in part to track the amounts of hazardous or toxic material that is released to the environment by industry and other significant users of toxic chemicals.

SARA Title III or EPCRA

In the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, Title III establishes a law also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).   EPCRA was enacted on the heels of the disaster in Bhopal, India, where a form of isocyanate was accidentally released, killing thousands of people.

Under EPCRA, each State designates a State emergency response coordination agency.   Additionally, local governments are to have local emergency planning committees.   Facilities that have a "threshold planning quantity" of an "extremely hazardous substance" must register themselves.  Quantities that qualify vary with the specific substance.  The facilities must designate an emergency coordinator.

Facilities at which there is an unpermitted "release" of a "reportable quantity" of an "extremely hazardous substance" or CERCLA hazardous substance beyond the facility boundary must immediately make a report to the state and local emergency coordinators.  Follow up written reports are also mandatory. CERCLA reporting requirements (see below) also apply, in addition.

EPCRA requires three other forms of reporting by facilities that may utilize certain kinds and quantities of hazardous materials.  The definitions of what must be reported are specific to EPCRA, and they need to be properly understood in determining whether reports are required.

Under EPCRA Section 311, a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) must be on file with the State and local emergency coordinators, as well as with the fire department for every chemical which is present at more than specified threshold quantities.  Exceptions are made for permitted hazardous waste operations and materials that are "articles".

Under EPCRA Section 312, chemical inventory forms showing locations of hazardous chemicals and other information must be filed.

Section 313 deals with "toxic chemical release reporting".  Its regulations include a Form R that annually must be compiled and filed by July 1 for the previous calendar year.  This document is supposed to record all releases to the environment, whether permitted or not, from a facility of.  The requirement applies to manufacturing SIC code facilities with ten or more employees that either manufacture, process or use more than a threshold quantity of a toxic chemical as defined by EPCRA.

EPA places a premium value on accurate and timely reporting.  It relies on reports to plan and enforce its programs.  Thus failure to file or falsification can bring significant penalties. 

CERCLA Release Reporting

Under Superfund or CERCLA, all persons that owned or operated  any facility where   hazardous substances were stored, treated or disposed of (other than already permitted facilities) were required to register the location with EPA by mid-1981.   The EPA regards this requirement as an ongoing obligation for persons who belatedly discover they owned or operated such sites.

Additionally, and very importantly, any person that owns or operates any facility or vessel must make a release report as soon as the person has knowledge of a "release" of a reportable quantity of a hazardous substance at or from the facility to the environment.  The report is to be made at once to the National Response Center, and such reports are generally telephoned. Failure to make a timely report or making a false report can result in a felony conviction.

Clean Air Act

Under the Clean Air Act (Section 112(r)(7)), certain persons that have Title V permits and that are in manufacturing businesses whose use of hazardous chemicals meets specific classifications must prepare and file response management plans.   These plans must provide scenarios that indicate effects and actions in the event of an accidental release.   Public notice of these plans is required.