In 1986, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was signed into law. The purpose of the act was to better prepare communities for chemical incidents.
EPCRA set standards for reporting chemical incidents to local officials and made Tier II reporting a requirement of facilities storing chemicals at a specific limit.
- On March 1 of each year, all facilities in the country that store non-hazardous and hazardous chemicals at a specific limit must compile any inventory they have maintained over the last year into a Tier II report.
Known officially as Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Forms, Tier II Reports are submitted annually to local fire departments, Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC) and to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to help those agencies plan for and respond to chemical emergencies. The report identifies specific qualities of the substance, such as whether it is corrosive or flammable, and poses any health hazards — specifically what type of effect the chemical has on the human body.
By law, all Tier II reports must be submitted to the local fire department, the LEPC, and to the TCEQ. Facilities can face up to a $25,000 fine per day for failure to comply.
Despite this, there remains a lack of uniformity in disclosure protocols, namely when these reports should be made available to the public:
- Under the Texas Homeland Security Act, the State can refuse to provide records that contain information about “materials that could be made into” an explosive device. This puts HFD and the LEPCs in the awkward position of potentially releasing information the State has deemed potentially beneficial to terrorists.
- Additionally, disclosure of some chemicals could inadvertently lead to proprietary data being exposed, which might lead to restrictions on publicizing the chemical makeup of proprietary formulas.
Representative Jim Murphy filed House Bill 2811 to make the public reporting process more consistent by requiring the TCEQ to release or have already released the Tier II information before a local authority may do so.
HB 2811 adds that the nine classes of dangerous goods, outlined in the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook, are not excepted from disclosure under Government Code 552.101 (proprietary information) or Sections 418.177-418.181 of the Government Code (the Texas Homeland Security Act). It also allows fire departments and local emergency planning commissions may release this information at any time.
Rep. Murphy was able to move HB 2811 through the Texas House, however the bill did not receive a hearing in the Texas Senate.