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What ever happened to SARA?

SARA Title III is the Emergency planning and Community Right-to-Know section of the Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act (SARA). SARA, an Epa-generated federal standard, was passed in 1986 as a result of the 1984 chemical tragedy in Bhopal, India, in which a release of toxic methyl isocyanate gas from a Union Carbide chemical plant killed more than 2,500 people and injured tens of thousands of others.

There have not been major changes ensuing years to SARA, which has two main purposes: to encourage and support emergency planning for responding to chemical accidents and to provide local governments and the public with information about possible chemical hazards in their communities. The law has four sections:

* The Emergency Planning section mandates a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), as well as individual Local Emergency Planning Districts (LEPDs) and Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) to administer the program;

* The Emergency Release Notification section requires the reporting of more than a specified amount of 366 "extremely hazardous substances," and more than 700 hazardous substances subject to the emergency notification requirements of the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup law (some chemicals are on both lists);

* The Hazardous Chemical Reporting section requires those who generate chemicals to prepare Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which contain information about a chemical's physical properties and health effects, and to maintain annual inventories of their chemical stores;

* The Toxic Chemical Release Reporting section requires facilities with 10 or more employees that use more than the threshold amount of some 320 toxic chemicals to report annual toxic releases to EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).

Implementation of SARA Title III in Alaska has been slow. When Title III was created in 1986, the federal government did not provide funding for the program, so little was done in Alaska. In May 1990, the state legislature passed a law to adopt federal regulations for Alaska and created a budget and staff to administer it.

Because DEC is the lead agency for the program, it chairs the State Emergency Response Commission. SERC also includes the Department of Emergency Services and has 16 total members: 9 state agency members, 7 public members and 1 industry member (Tesoro).

In 1991, Alaska finally established a working SERC, chaired by DEC Commissioner John Sandor. So far, the SERC has designated 24 Local Emergency Planning Districts, based on natural geographic and governmental boundaries within the state. In April, six Local Emergency Planning Committees had been approved: the Fairbanks North Star Borough; the Kodiak Island Borough; the Kenai Peninsula Borough; and the cities of Yakutat, Sitka and Ketchikan. The Municipality of Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Northwest Arctic Borough, and Prudhoe Bay LEPCs were approved in June.

According to Camille Stephens with DEC, the SERC is developing a reporting package for use by businesses and anticipates doing a mass mailing to all businesses in Alaska this summer.

In 1990, DEC distributed $120,000 in grants to communities to help them establish and manage LEPCs; in 1991, DEC will distribute $600,000. At this point, DEC is seeking voluntary compliance from industry because the chemical reporting information is of great value to local communities and fire departments.
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Title Annotation:Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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