The LEPCs are a product of federal legislation that was passed in the response to concerns regarding the environment and safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals.
These concerns were triggered by the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India, where thousands of people suffered death or serious injuries from the accidental release of a highly toxic pesticide (methyl isocyanate). Shortly thereafter, a serious chemical release at a plant in West Virginia hospitalized 100 individulas.
These events led to the writing and passage of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), which was signed by President Reagan in October 1986 and implemented in 1987.
EPCRA imposes requirements for federal, state and local governments, tribes and industries that cover emergency planning and community right to know reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals. The Community Right-to-Know provision helps increase the public's knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and release into the environment. States and communities, working with facilities, can use the information to improve chemical safety and protect public and environmental health.
To implement EPCRA, Congress requires each state to appoint a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC). The SERCs are required to divide their states into Emergency Planning Districts and to name a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) for each district.