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Hazardous Materials Preparedness

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A hazardous material is any item or agent (biological, chemical, radiological, and/or physical), which has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment, either by itself or through interaction with other factors.

PEMA's Role

PEMA’s Hazardous Materials Division in the Bureau of Technological Hazards, is responsible for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Materials Safety Program.

Under Act 165 (see below), the Hazardous Materials Safety Program, includes provisions which govern the state’s:

  • 67 local emergency planning committees
  • More than 3700 chemical planning facilities
  • Hazardous Materials Response Team Certification Program

The PEMA Hazardous Materials Division is also the agent for emergency planning assistance and direction to the state’s Marcellus Shale unconventional well sites, compressor stations, and intricate pipeline system, in coordination with multiple federal, state, and local agencies and volunteer organizations.

Hazardous materials preparedness is everyone’s responsibility, but the requirements might seem ambiguous or confusing at times. Fortunately, state and federal laws provide regulation and specific actions both businesses and individuals are required to take in the event of a Hazmat emergency.

PEMA’s Hazardous Materials Division is the agent responsible for or a coordinating element in the administration and oversight of these state and federal requirements.

Important Legislation

The following legislation is related to hazardous materials preparedness in Pennsylvania.

Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act

The federal Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act became law in 1986. Title III of these SARA provisions are also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) or SARA Title III.

SARA Title III was created to help communities plan for hazardous material or chemical related emergencies. It also requires industry to report on the storage, use and releases of hazardous substances to federal, state, and local governments. SARA Title III requires state and local governments, and Indian tribes to use this information to prepare for and protect their communities from potential risks.

The Hazardous Material Emergency Planning and Response Act (Act 165)

The Hazardous Material Emergency Planning and Response Act, Pennsylvania Act 1990-165, was promulgated in December 1990 and amended in February 2001. It implements the planning and preparedness requirements of SARA Title III.

Act 165 is NOT an unfunded mandate. It establishes a system of fees and grants to help support local efforts in compliance. There are provisions for establishment at the county level of both planning and per-chemical fees to be collected and utilized by the county for its hazmat programs. There is also a state-level program which collects fees from Tier II and TCR/TRI facilities and channels most of those funds back to the counties in the form of the Hazardous Materials Response Fund (HMRF) Grant to supplement their hazmat programs.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council (PEMC) serves as the SERC required by SARA Title III. PEMA is the executive administrative agent for the PEMC and the SERC.

Act 9: Unconventional Well Site Emergency Planning

PEMA, along with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), to ensure emergency plans are developed for every unconventional well site in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in accordance with Act 9 and reviewed for completeness.

These plans are to be retained by PEMA, DEP, and the county in which the well sites reside.

The Hazardous Materials Annual Report

The Hazardous Material Emergency Planning and Response Act (Act 165), requires PEMA to submit an annual report to the Pennsylvania Legislature annually by October 1st for the preceding calendar year.

Each county in the state is required to submit a Hazardous Materials Emergency Planning and Response annual report to PEMA no later than February 1 of each year for the preceding calendar year.

This annual report provides a snapshot of the Hazardous Materials Safety Program in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the costs associated with the program: