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SARA Title III: Basic Explanation of Section 312

The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), which is also called SARA Title III, was enacted in October of 1986. It allows states and local emergency planning committees to remain informed in the case of an emergency with regard to hazardous substances. If there were ever any kind of spill or other emergency situation at facilities that retain hazardous substances, local responders would know how to handle the situation. This information is made public so that citizens can remain informed in matters that may affect them, hence the term Community Right to Know.

Section 312 of SARA Title III is broken into two Tiers, Tier I and Tier II.

Tier I reports contain the following information: the maximum amount of hazardous chemicals at the facility during the preceding year, an estimate of the average daily amount of hazardous chemicals at the facility, and the general location.

Tier II reports contain all of the above information plus information on specific location and storage (See What’s Included in a Tier II Report? below). While Tier II reports are not required by Federal law, they may be required by your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) or State Emergency Reporting Commission (SERC). Check your state requirements to find out which report to file.

Who has to file a report?

Many industries fall under the reporting requirements including the aviation industry, automotive industries, Mining and Quarry industries, construction industries, manufacturing and general industries and many more.

Anyone who is covered by the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard and meets the following criteria:

  • Anyone who has Hazardous Chemicals stored in amounts equal to or greater than 10,000 lbs must file a report.
  • Anyone who has Extremely Hazardous Substances stored in amounts equal to or greater than 500 lbs OR equal to or greater than the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ). Use the TPQ if it is less than 500lbs.

A hazardous chemical is any product that presents any kind of physical or health hazard to the user. A list of Extremely Hazardous Substances can be found on EPA’s website.

  • Examples of Hazardous Chemicals: motor oil, antifreeze, diesel, gasoline, etc.
  • Examples of Extremely Hazardous Chemicals: ammonia, sulfuric acid, chlorine, etc.

What is the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ)?

The EPA determines the TPQ for chemicals based on the hazards associated with the chemical. A chemical that is extremely hazardous would be given a low TPQ to ensure that facilities would report them to the state. Check the EPA’s list of Extremely Hazardous Substances for chemicals and their TPQs.

If you’ve just received a substance that falls into one of these categories in the above quantities for the first time and have never filed a Tier II Report before, check with your state reporting requirements to find out when you need to file the initial report. Some states give you as few as five days while others can give you months to file the initial report.

If you’ve had this substance on site for some time and have filed Tier II reports in the past, file the annual report for the preceding year by March 1st of each year.

Even if you don’t currently have hazardous substances on site, a report must be filed if they were on site within the past year in amounts greater than the allowable threshold.

What’s Included in a Tier II Report?

Facility Information – includes, name, address, county and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) number (the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code used to be required, but recent changes to the regulations now call for the NAICS number instead).

The calendar year for the reporting period.

The Owner/Operator name, mailing address, and phone number.

Emergency contact and phone number of at least one local individual or office that can act as a referral if emergency responders need assistance in responding to a chemical accident at the facility. Also an emergency phone number where such emergency information will be available 24 hours a day.

A list of all chemicals and hazardous substances required according to the threshold quantities, including:

  • Common name
  • Chemical Abstract Services (CAS) number
  • Physical state
  • Physical and/or Health Hazards – these are divided into five categories. Physical hazards are Fire, Sudden Release of Pressure and Reactivity. Health hazards are Immediate (Acute) or Delayed (Chronic).
  • Inventory Information – this includes the maximum daily amount, the average daily amount and the number of days on site.
  • Storage Information – this includes container type, pressure, temperature, specific information on storage amounts and locations.

Certification – The owner or operator or the officially designed representative of the owner or operator must certify that all information included in the Tier II submission is true, accurate and complete.

How do I File a Tier II Report?

Tier II reports must be filed by March 1st for the previous calendar year. Reports need to be filed annually.

Every state has different requirements for how they want you to file your Tier II reports. Some use the EPA’s reporting system software and some use their own software programs.

Who gets the completed reports?

  • LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Committee)
  • Any local fire departments that would respond to emergencies at the facility
  • SERC (State Emergency Reporting Commission)

Penalties for Non-Compliance

If you are found to be in non-compliance with Tier II Reporting regulations, you could be subject to fines of up to $27,500 per violation, per day.

It makes sense to be compliant with SARA Title III Regulations. If there were ever any kind of emergency situation at your facility involving hazardous chemicals, local emergency responders would know how to respond because of the information you provided them with. They could get their jobs done with knowledge and efficiency. The community will be best prepared if your hazardous materials are reported to local and state agencies