SARA Title III

SARA 302, 311-312 / Tier II Reporting

On October 17, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Superfund Amendments & Reauthorization Act (SARA) Title III, administered by the EPA.  Also called the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), this law requires facilities with chemically-oriented products to report its site-specific chemicals and vital emergency response data to various federal, state, county, and local EPA-related agencies by March 1 annually.  Reports and performance criteria are mandated under Sections 302, 304, 311, 312 and 313.   

SARA Title III was enacted for two categorical reasons: 1) Ever-increasing needs for emergency response to industrial accidents with heightened regularity; 2) The government’s concern with an overwhelming problem, the release of toxic chemicals by Industry to the environment through standard operating procedures. 

SARA directs states, communities and Industry to plan for chemical accidents/emergencies, develop inventories of hazardous substances, track toxic chemical releases and provide public access to information on hazardous substances.  It entails four major reporting sections, all covering a different subset of chemical hazards, yet regulating requirements for facilities, communities, states, and/or the EPA.

Sections 301-303 of SARA require facilities that use, store, process, produce, manufacture, distribute, or import some 375 extremely hazardous substances (EHSs) in quantities above 500 lbs. OR threshold planning quantities (TPQs) – whichever is less – to notify state, county and local EPA-related agencies with chemical/emergency response data, plus any additional information required for the development of the local emergency response plan.  In any case, facilities are required to notify the Local Emergency Planning Committee (County) within 60 days of “any change occurring at the facility which may be relevant to emergency planning.”  These sections also cover EHSs and address mixtures based on their individual chemical components. 

SARA Sections 311-312 require facilities that use, store, process, produce, manufacture, distribute, or import almost any and all chemicals (est. at 650,000 chemicals) to file reports with federal, state, county and local agencies if the chemicals are present above certain specified thresholds.  Sections 311 and 312 address the community’s Right-to-Know those quantities of chemical hazards and mixtures present at facilities to which they may be exposed.

Thresholds for Sections 302 and 312 are based on maximum quantities in inventory at any point in time throughout the previous calendar year.

SARA 304, Response to Accidental Spills, Releases and Emergency Preparedness

Facilities are required to report an accidental spill or release of a hazardous substance under Section 304 of SARA (aka the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, CERCLA) if the amount of the spill/release exceeds the Reportable Quantity (RQ) in pounds as assigned by the EPA to the specific chemical(s) in question.  This release is reportable to local, state and national authorities by phone within one hour of the event's occurrence and in writing within five days.  The emergency phone call is made to the National Response Center and Terrorist Prevention Hotline.  Some 775 chemicals are regulated under Section 304 of SARA.

Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), aka Form “R” Reporting Under SARA, Sec. 313

Since 1987, the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting program has accounted for the release of toxic chemicals to the environment (air, land and water) by Industry in the U.S.  As a result of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, source reduction and waste minimization were incorporated into TRI reporting beginning with the 1991 compliance year.  Over 800 specified toxic chemicals and chemical categories are required for reporting due to their strong tendencies to cause serious injuries with short term exposures, cause cancer in humans, and impose significantly adverse effects on the environment. 

The purpose of TRI, SARA Section 313 is:

1. Initially, to monitor the release of toxic chemicals – liquids, solids and gases – to the environment by companies that process, manufacture, import, or "otherwise use" these chemicals under STANDARD operating procedures throughout the entire calendar year.

2. Reduce toxic pollution "at the source," thereby requiring companies to reduce releases of their toxic chemicals to the environment.

TRI requires covered facilities to submit annual routine release reports and source reduction documentation by July 1 annually, to address the need for better understanding of the amount of chemicals released to the air, water, land, or transferred off-site.  Specifically, TRI covers a list of over 800 chemicals and chemical categories that are acutely toxic (i.e., they cause serious injuries even if the exposure is short-term), may or do cause cancer, or have significant adverse effects on the environment. 

The reporting requirements apply to:

  • facilities with 10 or more full-time employees (or 20,000 hrs./yr.),
  • facilities conducting business under SIC Codes 2000 - 3999;   plus 7 industry segments for "TRI Industry Expansion" initiative: 1. SIC code 10 - Metal Mining (except 1011 & 1094); 2. SIC code 12 - Coal Mining; 3. SIC codes 4911, 4931, 4939 - Electric Utilities; 4. SIC code 4953 - Commercial Hazardous Waste Treatment; 5. SIC code 5169 - Chemicals & Allied Products-Wholesale; 6. SIC code 5171 - Petroleum Bulk Terminals & Plants; 7. SIC code 7389 - Solvent Recovery Services.  Incidentally, the State of Minnesota has added 14 additional SIC Codes for state reporting under TRI that venture far beyond the aforementioned SIC Code requirements. 
  • facilities that process, manufacture, import, or "otherwise use" a listed toxic chemical or chemical  category at or above specified annual usage threshold quantities. 

In 1998, the EPA introduced legislation regarding a class of 53 chemicals called Persistent Bio-Accumulative Toxins (PBTs).  This program's objective is to reduce emissions from toxics that have a tendency to linger and persist in biological organisms (plant and animal life), as well as water resources for an indefinite time period.

SARA Title III Testimonial

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