The Erie County LEPC or Local Emergency Planning Committee is a voluntary group of about 150 professionals and interested parties from throughout Erie County representing over 70 organizations. The Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is a product of federal legislation passed in the wake of the Bhopal disaster in India, where thousands of people died because of an accident involving hazardous chemicals. To prevent similar occurrences in our communities, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), also known as Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), in 1986. EPCRA establishes requirements for businesses and for federal, state, and local governments regarding emergency planning and community right-to-know (CRTK) reporting for hazardous chemicals. The CRTK provision in EPCRA helped increase awareness about the presence of chemicals in their communities and releases of these chemicals into the environment. Many State legislatures also enacted CRTK laws that are consistent with federal law. As a result, States and communities, working with industry, are better able to protect public health and the environment.
The role of the LEPC 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 management plan and annexes; assessing capabilities and developing hazmat response capability using local resources, mutual aid and contractors; training responders; and exercising the plan.
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 material safety data sheets (MSDS) 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 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.