The Chicago Local Emergency Planning Committee
The Chicago Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) was founded to develop and coordinate the citywide strategy to prevent and mitigate the effects of hazardous materials incidents. The goal of the LEPC is to promote chemical emergency preparedness and prevention. The Chicago LEPC supports the preparation of hazardous materials emergency plans that incorporate information about the facilities that use, produce, or store hazardous materials within the jurisdiction. The Chicago LEPC serves as the repository for regional reports filed under Title III of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA). The Chicago LEPC supports Title III implementation activities and aims to increase associated outreach functions to increase awareness and understanding of and compliance with the EPCRA program.
The Chicago LEPC is a standing organization that includes local officials from the Chicago Fire Department, Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Chicago Department of Public Health, and representatives from critical infrastructure, transportation, chemical engineering, and environmental engineering agencies, as well as representatives of facilities subject to the emergency planning requirements and community groups. The Chicago LEPC assists in the development of emergency response plans, conducts annual reviews, and provides information about chemicals in the community to citizens. The Chicago LEPC is governed by the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC).
EPCRA was passed in response to concerns regarding the environmental and safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. These concerns were triggered by the disaster in Bhopal, India, in which more than 3,000 people suffered death or serious injury from the accidental release of methyl isocyanate in 2-3 December 1984. Approximately six months later, a similar incident occurred in West Virginia. These two events raised concern about local preparedness for chemical emergencies and the availability of information on hazardous chemicals. To reduce the likelihood of such a disaster in the United States, Congress imposed requirements on both states and regulated facilities.
EPCRA establishes requirements for Federal, State and local governments, Indian Tribes, and industry regarding emergency planning and “Community Right-to-Know” reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals. The Community Right-to-Know provisions help increase the public’s knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment. States and communities, working with facilities, can use the information to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment.
Local Emergency Planning Committees were established under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, commonly known as Superfund. There are four major provisions of EPCRA:
- Emergency Planning
- Emergency Release Notification
- Hazardous Chemical Storage Reporting
- Toxic Chemical Release Inventory