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Utah State Emergency Response Commission (SERC):
History, Duties, and Activities
In 1986 Congress, in response to a chemical disaster in Bhopal, India and a series of smaller chemical incidents in the United States, enacted the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA). The objectives of EPCRA are to:
- Establish a state and local chemical emergency response planning structure.
- Require the immediate reporting of hazardous substance releases with may expose the public, to local and state emergency response agencies.
- Provide, through facility reports, chemical inventory and hazards information to state and local government emergency responders, and to the public when requested.
- Identify the major sources of toxic chemical releases to the environment.
In response to EPCRA planning requirements, The 1987 Utah legislature enacted the Hazardous Chemical Emergency Planning and Information Act (Sec. 63-5-5, Utah Code Annotated 1953), which established the "Hazardous Chemical Emergency Response Commission" and authorized the Commission to carry out all EPCRA requirements. The Commission is composed of a representative of the Utah Department of Public Safety and a representative of the Department of Environmental Quality. SERC duties within the Department of Public Safety are performed by the Division of Emergency Management (DEM). SERC duties within the Department of Environmental Quality are performed by the Division of Environmental Response and Remediation. Membership of the Commission was purposefully kept small, as EPCRA's focus is on local planning and response, rather than action on a state level.
Under Utah Code Sec 63-5-5, the Department of Public Safety has primary responsibility for. EPCRA emergency planning activities. This includes hazardous substance, emergency planning assistance to state and local governments. The Department of Environmental Quality has primary responsibility for receiving and managing chemical information submitted under EPCRA.
The Division of Environmental Response and Remediation presently receives EPCRA chemical information reports from over 1900 facilities throughout the state. Chemical inventory and hazard information is computerized and is available to State and local chemical emergency planning and response personnel, as well as the public. This information is used to focus and prioritize emergency planning activities as well as to more effectively respond to facility emergencies. Chemical emission information is also computerized and provided to other divisions as an aid in identifying areas, facilities or chemicals of concern and as a cross check to data received through other environmental statues.
EPCRA data is available to the public upon request to assist them in determining hazardous chemicals being used or emitted by community industries.
The Division of Emergency Management (DEM) provides assistance to community planners around the state, providing access to federal assistance grants, organizing training and information sharing programs, and in many other ways assisting them to become fully functional.