The Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is a product of federal legislation that was passed in the wake of the Bhopal disaster in India, where more than 2,000 people died because of an accident involvingaccidental 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 helps to increase public knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment.
LEPCs are volunteer organizations that consist of emergency responders, industry, government, education, media, and community groups. Their main functions are to provide for joint emergency planning, training, and public outreach. As a result, communities, working with industry, are better able to protect public health and the environment.
The role of LEPCs is to form a partnership with local governments and industries as a resource for enhancing hazardous materials preparedness. Local governments are responsible for the integration of hazmat planning and response within their jurisdiction. This includes ensuring the local hazard analysis adequately addresses hazmat incidents; incorporating planning for hazmat incidents into the local emergency plan and annexes; assessing capabilities and developing hazmat response capability using local resources, mutual aid and contractors; training responders; and exercising the plan. As a result, communities, working with industry, are better able to protect public health and the environment.
It’s necessary for industry to be a part of that 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 LEPC, SERC, and local fire department; providing SDSs 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 local hazardous materials planning and community right-to-know programs.
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. That expertise is essential as the LEPC advises the writers of the local emergency management plan, so that the plan is tailored to the needs of the planning district. In addition to its formal duties, the LEPC can serve as a focal point in the community for information and discussion about hazardous substance emergency planning, and health and environmental risks. Citizens may expect the LEPC to reply to questions about chemical hazards and risk management actions.
Members of the LEPC represent the various organizations, agencies, departments, facilities, and/or other groups within the district. Each member must realize that he or she represents their organization on the LEPC and that they are responsible for coordinating information and activities from the LEPC to their organization and for providing accurate feedback from their organization back to the LEPC.
The LEPC has many responsibilities, mandates, and deadlines. The membership should organize to handle these various tasks by utilizing individual efforts, sub-committees, or contracted assistance.
EPCRA establishes the LEPC as a forum at the local level for discussions and a focus for action in matters pertaining to hazardous materials planning. LEPCs also help to provide local governments and the public with information about possible chemical hazards in their communities.