Basic objective. The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) revises and extends CERCLA (Superfund authorization). CERCLA is extended by the addition of new authorities known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (also known as Title III of SARA). Title III of SARA provides for "emergency planning and preparedness, community right-to-know reporting, and toxic chemical release reporting." This act also establishes a special program within the Department of Defense for restoration of contaminated lands, somewhat similar to the Superfund under CERCLA.
Key provisions. There are key provisions which apply when a hazardous substance is handled and when an actual release has occurred. Even before any emergency has arisen, certain information must be made available to state and local authorities and to the general public upon request. Facility owners and operators are obligated to provide information pertaining to any regulated substance present on the facility to the appropriate state or local authorities (Subtitle A). Three types of information are to be reported to the appropriate state and local authorities (Subtitle B):
1. Material safety data sheets (MSDSs), which are prepared by the manufacturer of any hazardous chemical and are retained by the facility owner or operator (or if confidentiality is a concern, a list of hazardous chemicals for which MSDSs are retained can be made available). These sheets contain general information on a hazardous chemical and provide an initial notice to the state and local authorities.
2. Emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms, which are submitted annually to the state and local authorities. Tier I information includes the maximum amount of a hazardous chemical which may be present at any time during the reporting year, and the average daily amount present during the year prior to the reporting year. Also included is the "general location of hazardous chemicals in each category." This information is available to the general public upon request. Tier II information is reported only if requested by an emergency entity or fire department. This information provides a more detailed description of the chemicals, the average amounts handled, the precise location, storage procedures, and whether the information is to be made available to the general public (allowing for the protection of confidential information).
3. Toxic chemical release reporting, which releases general information about effluents and emissions of any "toxic chemicals."
In the event that a release of a hazardous substance does occur, a facility owner or operator must notify the authorities. This notification must identify the hazardous chemical involved; amounts released; time, duration, and environmental fate; and suggested action.
A multilayer emergency planning and response network on the state and local government levels is to be established (also providing a notification scheme in the event of a release).
Enforcement responsibilities; federal-state relationship. Local emergency planning committees or an emergency response commission appointed by the governor of the state is responsible for the response scheme. The primary drafters of the local response plans are local committees, which are also responsible for initiating the response procedure in the event of an emergency. Each state commission will supervise the local activities.
Accomplishments and impacts. SARA legislation to promote emergency planning and to provide citizen information at the local level was a response to the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India. A major intent is to reassure U.S. citizens that a similar tragedy will not occur in this country, and thus have a calming effect. The standardization of reporting and record keeping should produce long-term benefits and well-designed response plans. Whether a high-quality emergency response involvement can be maintained indefinitely at the local level remains a question.
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