What is SARA Title III?
In 1980, the U.S. enacted a federal law called the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act or CERCLA to facilitate the cleaning-up of sites contaminated by hazardous chemicals. Enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this law is also commonly known as Superfund. The name Superfund is derived from the special trust fund CERCLA instituted to pay for the clean-up of sites when the responsible party is no longer identifiable.
In 1986, the U.S. made significant changes and additions to Superfund with the passage of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act or SARA. The law was a direct response to the 1984 chemical disaster in Bhopal, India where methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a tank and killed approximately 3800 people and injured thousands more.
One of the biggest changes instituted under SARA was the passage of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To- Know Act or EPCRA. A separate law unto itself, it is commonly known as SARA Title III and it sets requirements for local and state emergency planning around hazardous chemicals, the right of the public to access information on chemical hazards in their community, and the reporting responsibilities for facilities that use, store, and/or release hazardous chemicals.
SARA Title III has four provisions:
- Emergency Planning (Sections 301-303)
- Emergency Release Notification (Section 304)
- Hazardous Chemical Storage Reporting Requirements (Section 311-312)
- Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (Section 313)
Steep Costs of SARA Violations
Sections 325 and 326 of SARA Title III outline penalties for non-compliance and give citizens the right to sue facilities that fail to meet their obligations. Penalties include:
- Fines Up to $10,000 to $82,500 Per Violation/Per Day
- Criminal Penalties of Up to $50,000 or Five Years in Prison
- Facility Closures
- Negative Press and Damage to Corporate Image
*You Should Know: EPCRA requires the owner, operator or person in charge of a facility to immediately notify proper authorities as soon as they have “knowledge” of a reportable release. By knowledge, the EPA means actual knowledge or knowledge that could have been known if due diligence had been exercised. In other words, poor planning or unnecessary reporting delays are not viable defenses against this responsibility.