The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), is a statute enacted in 1986 in response to the public concerns after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, where poisonous gas was accidently released in Bhopal, India from the Union Carbide factory in 1984. After the incident, the officials of the factory denied taking the responsibility of accident and the victims are still waiting for justice.
EPCRA works under two sets of provisions. One is the provision of drafting plans in case of chemical emergencies like gas leaks, chemical leaks etc and the second is to extend the same kind of right-to-know provisions to communities which were offered earlier in 1980’s. In other words EPCRA works in a proactive and preventive approach to deal with environmental emergencies and crises.
EPCRA made it compulsory for every state governor to establish a State Emergency Response Commission whose function was to plan for emergencies, identification of facilities associated with chemical hazards and to draft the procedures to be followed in case some chemical accident happens.
EPCRA’s other major role is to establish community right-to-know policy. Under this provision, EPCRA collects information from different facilities about the presence of chemicals in the facility and makes it public for the knowledge of community.
Apart from this it also makes it mandatory for businesses to submit two annual reports, Chemical Inventory and Toxic Chemicals Release Inventories (TRIs) to analyze the hazards associated with a facility and community. Businesses are also required to inform EPCRA immediately in case of a chemical or gas release from the facility.
EPCRA has significant effects on chemical industries and the major achievement was the change of attitude towards chemical risk management. Companies have started following the methodologies developed under Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and have made it a part of corporate responsibility.