Hazardous Materials Preparedness
A hazardous material is any item or agent (biological, chemical, radiological, and/or physical) that has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment — either by itself or through interaction with other factors.
PEMA’s Hazardous Materials Division — in the Bureau of Technological Hazards — is responsible for the commonwealth's Hazardous Materials Safety Program.
Act 165, the Hazardous Materials Safety Program includes provisions that govern the state’s:
- 67 local emergency planning committees
- More than 3,700 chemical planning facilities
- Hazardous Materials Response Team Certification Program
The Hazardous Materials Division also provides emergency planning assistance and direction to Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale unconventional well sites, compressor stations, and intricate pipeline system — all in coordination with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as volunteer organizations.
Hazardous materials preparedness is everyone's responsibility, but requirements can seem ambiguous or confusing. Fortunately, state and federal laws provide regulations and specific actions required for businesses and individuals in the event of a HAZMAT emergency.
The Hazardous Materials Division is responsible for the administration and oversight of these state and federal requirements.
The following legislation has to do with hazardous materials preparedness in Pennsylvania:
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
The federal Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) became law in 1986. Title III is known as the
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act — or SARA Title III.
This legislation was created to help communities plan for hazardous material or chemical-related emergencies. It also requires industries to report on the storage, use, and releases of hazardous substances to federal, state, and local governments.
SARA Title III requires state/local governments and indigenous populations to use this information to prepare for and protect their communities from potential risks.
The Hazardous Material Emergency Planning and Response Act,
Pennsylvania Act 1990-65, was announced in December 1990 and amended in February 2001. It implements the planning and preparedness Requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
Act 165 is not an unfunded mandate. It establishes fees and grants to help support local efforts in compliance. There are provisions for counties to plan, collect, and utilize per-chemical fees for HAZMAT programs.
Most of the collected funds are channeled back to the counties in the form of the
Hazardous Materials Response Fund Grant, to supplement the county chemical safety program.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council serves as the State Emergency Response Commission — the entity responsible for implementing Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act provisions in the commonwealth.
Act 165 also requires us to submit an
annual report to the Pennsylvania legislature by October 1 for the preceding calendar year.
Act 9, we work with the Department of Environmental Protection to make sure emergency plans are developed for all unconventional well sites in the commonwealth.