By Steve Barlas

You're going to know more about the potentially deadly toxins that chemical manufacturers in your community use and store onsite now that the U.S. EPA's expanded the list of annual Tier II reporting requirements. The additional detail, which goes to city and county agencies involved in planning emergency response, is due for the first time in 2014.

Tim Gablehouse, a Denver attorney who advises many Colorado communities, says the Tier II data-set expansion accomplishes two things: “It puts more information in the hands of the community, and reinforces the fact that all-hazards planning should be done at the community level.” Gable-house has been chairman of the National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials, which pressed EPA to revise chemical reporting rules.

Specified under section 312 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, Tier II reports list maximum and average daily amounts of “extremely hazardous substances” above certain levels and within a range. The EPA keeps a master list of more than 300 substances. But states can require facilities to report on additional chemicals, and many do. Cities and counties factor in those chemical release possibilities and other nonchemical hazards, such as flooding, when writing all-hazards response plans.

Public works brings a great deal of capability to the table,” Gablehouse says of the men and women who sit on Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs), the bodies responsible for writing response plans.

Among the information that production facilities will have to share:

  • Parent company
  • Emergency coordinator
  • RMP identification number
  • Latitude and longitude (Some facilities provide a box number instead of an address, or operate in extremely rural areas, so these coordinates will help agencies respond more quickly to a dangerous release or spill.)
  • Mixture name, product name, or chemical name as it appears on the Material Safety Data Sheet whether the substance is pure or a mixture.
New data may complicate planning

Some tweaks may confuse rather than clarify things for first responders.

Facilities will be asked if they're also subject to two related programs: EPCRA section 302 and Clean Air Act section 112(r), which requires them to develop plans for avoiding and reacting to any emergency, chemical or otherwise.

Facility reviews go to EPA, not the LEPC (although the LEPC can get access), and list facilities outside the LEPC reporting area with release zones that cross into the LEPC planning area.

“The Tier II data element will not capture this information,” says George Yacus, chairman of the Chesapeake (Va.) LEPC. “This new element could lead response planners to conclude that all facilities are planned for — while, in fact, they are not.”

— Steve Barlas is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer who covers regulatory issues, with a special emphasis on EPA.