Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester introduced on April 20 the Alerting Localities of Environmental Risks and Threats Act, or ALERT Act, of 2020.
The bill amends the Federal Emergency Planning and Community Right To-Know Act of 1986, requiring facilities that have accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances to hold public meetings to inform the public about the release and any subsequent mitigation plan.
“The best way to protect our communities is to prevent hazardous chemical disasters in the first place, and that should be our top priority,” said Blunt Rochester. “That means increasing our ability to monitor air pollution at the fence line so that we can have real-time, accurate data about the air quality in our communities. But, we know that these accidents will still take place, and when they do, communities have the right to know. That's why we must have a robust response and notification process that involves the local community in the development of any emergency response plan and ensures that the fence line community is the first to know about a leak or emergency in their neighborhood.”
“All too often, communities are the last to know about an emergency,” continued Blunt Rochester. “This is unacceptable. That's why I'm proud to introduce the ALERT Act, which will require industries producing hazardous and toxic chemicals to engage directly with the community where they are located to ensure residents have real-time knowledge of any toxic release and ensure that communities are engaged in the subsequent remediation plan. Every person deserves to breathe clean air and live in a safe community. While we still have a long way to go to prevent hazardous chemical disasters, the ALERT Act will fill an important gap in the current notification process.”
The ALERT Act will require a facility that has a release of an extremely hazardous substance to hold a public meeting within 72 hours of the release. The facility must publish a notice in a local newspaper at least 24 hours in advance of the public meeting, including the date, time and location.
The ALERT Act will also require a facility that processes extremely hazardous substances to hold an annual public meeting. During that public meeting, the facility will provide the public with the name of any extremely hazardous substance that exceeds the previously predetermined threshold present at the facility in the last calendar year; an estimate of the maximum amount of each extremely hazardous substance that was present at the facility last calendar year; and details on the procedure to be followed in response to a release of an extremely hazardous chemical. The facility must publish a notice in a local newspaper at least seven days in advance of the public meeting, including the date, time and location of the public meeting.
The full text of the bill can be found at bit.ly/3brbrdt.