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EPCRA implementation on Tribal Lands

In 1986, 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), to help local communities, including Indian reservations, protect public health and the environment from chemical hazards by informing citizens about the chemicals present in their communities. On July 26, 1990, EPA published a final rule designating Indian Tribes and their chief executive officers as the implementing authority for EPCRA on all Indian lands (55 FR 30632). What is EPA's policy regarding the implementation of the different provisions of EPCRA on Indian lands?

EPA's policy is to work with Tribes on a "government to government" basis in implementing the requirements of EPCRA. EPCRA contains four major provisions: planning for chemical emergencies, emergency notification of chemical accidents and releases, reporting of hazardous chemical inventories, and toxic chemical release reporting.  The emergency planning provisions of Sections 301-303 are designed to help Indian Tribes prepare for, and respond to chemical emergencies occurring on Indian lands that involve extremely hazardous substances (EHSs), found at 40 CFR Part 355, Appendix A and B.  The chief executive officers of federally recognized Tribes must appoint Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERCs), responsible for carrying out the provisions of EPCRA in the same manner as State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs).  

Alternatively, Tribal leaders can join a Tribal Coalition which functions as the TERC, or establish a Memorandum of Understanding with a state to participate under the SERC. TERCs establish emergency planning districts and can appoint Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) or act as TERCs/LEPCs, performing the functions of both.  LEPCs use information collected under EPCRA to develop local emergency response plans to respond quickly to chemical accidents.  The chief executive officer should ensure that TERCs maintain a broad-based representation, including Tribal public agencies and departments dealing with environmental, energy, public health and safety issues, as well as other tribal community groups with interest in EPCRA.  The Tribal LEPC should also be representative of the community, and should include elected Tribal officials, fire chiefs, Indian Health Services officials, Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, Tribal elders and leaders, representatives of industries on or near the reservation, and members of the general community.  

The emergency release notification provisions of Section 304 require facilities to immediately notify TERCs and LEPCs of releases in excess of reportable quantities of EHSs and CERCLA hazardous substances, found at 40 CFR 302.4.  Facilities must also provide written follow-up reports on the actions taken to respond to releases and possible health effects of the released substances.  The emergency release notification provisions cover releases from commercial, municipal, and other facilities on Tribal lands, including those owned by the Tribe, and those from accidents on transportation routes within the reservation.  

Substances covered by this section include not only EHSs, but also hazardous substances subject to the emergency release notification requirements of CERCLA Section 103.  CERCLA requires notification of releases to the National Response Center.  In cases where releases from facilities located on Indian lands may affect areas outside Indian jurisdiction, the legislation under Section 304(b)(1) requires that notice be provided to all SERCs and LEPCs likely to be affected by the releases.  Response to such releases will be handled by cooperation between the affected jurisdictions.  EPA encourages Indian Tribes, SERCs, and LEPCs to participate in joint planning efforts to prepare for such potential emergencies.  

The hazardous chemical right-to-know provisions of Sections 311 and 312, require facilities that prepare material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous chemicals under OSHA, and have hazardous chemicals or EHSs present above applicable threshold levels, to submit these MSDSs, or lists of such chemicals to TERCs, LEPCs, and local fire departments.  Facilities are also required to submit hazardous chemical inventory forms which detail the amounts, conditions of storage, and locations of hazardous chemicals and EHSs to TERCs, LEPCs, and local fire departments.  

It is the responsibility of TERCs and LEPCs to make this information available to the public.  The information collected under EPCRA enables TERCs and LEPCs to paint a picture of the hazardous substances and chemicals found on Indian lands.  It also allows the Tribal communities to work with industries to reduce the use and releases of toxic chemicals into the environment and prevent chemical accidents.