TCEQ Training in Tier II Reporting

On Monday, January 23rd, I attended a TCEQ-hosted training on Tier II reporting in Pasadena. TCEQ has a number of workshops and trainings that are open to the public. While this particular training was geared toward industry, I was curious about the process and decided to attend.

Tier II reporting is done by industry as part of the Federal EPCRA regulations. EPCRA stands for Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, and was established in 1986 to better help communities plan for chemical emergencies. Prior to September, 2015, Tier II Reporting was handled by the Department of State Health Services, but is now handled by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) as part of their Critical Infrastructure Division, which deals with homeland security.

Industry is mandated to report extremely hazardous substances as classified by the EPA, in excess of 500 lbs. or their threshold planning quantity, whichever is less. So if you have 499 lbs. of sulfur dioxide on site, you wouldn’t need to report, but if you have 501 lbs. you would. At that point, the amount of chemical present would surpassed the 500 lb. limit for reporting of an extremely hazardous substance. For chlorine, for instance, you would need to report if the facility stores over 100 lbs, because the threshold planning quantity is 100 lbs. Other specified chemicals stored within the facility in excess of 10,000 lbs. must also be reported, as well as diesel, gasoline, and mineral/oil spirits.

What isn’t reportable? Waste. Hazardous waste is covered by another department within TCEQ. Also not reportable are tobacco, wood or wood products, articles, food, drugs, cosmetics, alcoholic beverages, and hazardous consumer products. I was surprised at what wasn’t reportable – having something like low-level radioactive waste would seem like a concern for emergency responders and homeland security, but I was told that another department within TCEQ managed waste.

Tier II reports are filed between January 1st and March 1st for the previous year. Reports must also be filed within 90 days of a new chemical arriving onsite, or within 90 days of a change in the current amounts of chemicals previously reported. Fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate must be reported within 72 hours of arrival on site.

Industry reports basic information about the facility and whether the facility is an RMP facility, which means that the facility uses extremely hazardous substances and is required to have a risk management plan in place that outlines the potential consequences of a chemical release. Industry must also the chemicals present, and information like the physical properties, the health effects, how much is present, and whether the chemical is an extremely hazardous substance, as well as its precise chemical location within facility. TCEQ requested: “Don’t grab numbers out of the air, please.”

TCEQ recommends that the company provide a facility map showing the location within facility for the emergency responders. Contact information for the facility emergency coordinator, for the owner/operator, and for the TIER II contact must also be provided. A local emergency responder brought up the issue of incorrect latitudes and longitudes placing facilities in the middle of Galveston Bay! Unfortunately, that information usually goes unchecked.

After a company submits its Tier II report to TCEQ, it then submits copies to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and to the Fire District. Not all companies follow through, so some LEPCs request the information from the state. The information submitted in the Tier II report to TCEQ is not publicly available.