The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requires each state to set up a State Emergency Response Commission, or SERC. The 50 states and the U.S. territories and possessions have established these commissions, which are listed on page 33. Indian tribes have the option to function as an independent SERC or as part of the state in which the tribe is located (see Indian Tribes).
In some states, the SERC’s have been formed from existing organizations, such as state environmental, emergency management, transportation, or public health agencies. In others, they are new organizations with representatives from public agencies and departments. Along with various private groups and associations.
A broad perspective is crucial to the oversight role of the SEC’s. Information available under crucial to the oversight role of the SERCs. Informati0on available under the Act will involve air, water, solid waste, toxics, and other state and federal environmental programs and regulations.
Among the SERC’s duties are to:
- Designate local emergency planning districts within the state.
- Appoint a local emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) to serve each of the districts.
- Coordinate and supervise the activities of the local committees, through regular communication and contact.
- Coordinate proposals for and distribution of training grant funds.
- Review local emergency response plans annually, making recommendations for any needed changes.
- Notify EPA of all facilities in the state that are either covered under emergency planning requirements, or have been designated as subject to these requirements by the SERC or the governor.
The SERCs also receive reports and notifications required by the legislation: material safety data sheets (MSDSs) or lists of MSDS chemicals, emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms, and notices of emergency releases (this data also goes to LEPCs)
The law requires that toxic release inventory information be provided to EPA and to the state, but does not designate any specific state agency. The SERC may be designated to receive these reports, or they may be submitted to the state environmental, health or emergency management agency (in almost every state the agency IS a member of the SERC). The designated agency must make the reports available to the public, and it can use them itself in developing and enforcing state environmental and public health programs. (See State Designated TRI Contacts for a list of the state contacts designates to receive the toxic release information.)
The SERC should provide the forum for coordinating all Title III information, and assisting in understanding and communication the associated chemical risks.
The SERC is also responsible for:
- Establishing procedures for receiving and processing public requests for information collected under the Act.
- Asking for further information from facilities, at the request of the state or another party or at its own discretion, about a particular chemicals or facility. Requesting information from EPA on the health effects of chemicals that EPA has agreed to designate “ trade secret,” and ensuring that this information is available to the public.
- Taking civil action against facility owners or operators who fail to comply with reporting requirements.
The SERC should ensure that its state programs are integrated with the federal law in order to strengthen enforcement.
The SERC can provide strong leadership, coordination, technical assistance, and training, work closely with LEPCs to help identify their specific needs and carry out their programs, and use its knowledge and expertise to help all affected groups, organizations and individuals meet their responsibilities under the Act.