By Jeryl L. Olson and Eric E. Boyd

In anticipation of the impending hurricane season, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a Hazardous Weather Release Prevention and Reporting Alert. The purpose of the Alert, according to the EPA Press Release, is to “increase awareness among facility operators about their obligation to operate facilities safely and report chemical releases in a timely manner.” Although the Alert provides no new information or requirements, it is a good reminder of existing legal requirements and the resources available to help facilities to weather severe storms.

The Alert begins by describing things facility operators should do to prevent releases during shutdown or emergency operations due to storm or flooding events. The Alert describes the general duty provisions of the Clean Air Act and related air regulations that require facility owners and operators to prevent accidental releases of certain listed substances, hazardous substances, extremely hazardous substances, and hazardous air pollutants. The Alert also discusses what facilities should do if a release occurs due to a storm or preparation for a storm, and describes the emergency release reporting provisions of Section 103 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), as amended, and Section 304 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The Alert recommends:

“EPA encourages all industry sectors to review their operational events during shutdown operations related to previous hazardous weather events, and make appropriate administrative/procedural, operational/process equipment and hardware/software safety improvements.”

Finally, the Alert links to resources to help facilities prepare for, ride out, and recover from a storm event.