SARA Title III was passed in response to concerns regarding the environmental and safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. These concerns were triggered by the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India, in which thousands of people suffered death or serious injury due to a release of methyl isocyanate gas from a chemical plant. To reduce the likelihood of such a disaster in the United States, Congress imposed requirements on both states and regulated facilities. SARA Title III establishes requirements for federal, state, and local governments, Indian tribes, and industry regarding emergency planning and “Community Right-to-Know” reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals.

The Community Right-to-Know provisions help increase the public’s knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment. States and communities, working with facilities, can use the information to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment. 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 Federal SARA Title III. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council (PEMC) serves as the State Emergency Planning Commission (SERC) required by SARA Title III.