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How to know if a chemical facility is in your neighborhood

Local Emergency Planning Committees help inform communities what toxic chemicals are stored next door to your home.
Credit: AP
FILE--In this Sept. 18, 2009, file photo, a man works at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas. Exxon Mobil says it plans to spend $2 billion to expand a chemicals plant next to the Houston Ship Channel and that the project will create 2,000 temporary construction jobs. The company said Thursday, May 2, 2019, it will build a new unit at the Baytown plant to make chemical compounds that give plastics more elasticity and flexibility, and produce ingredients used in engine and industrial oils. Exxon says the facility should begin operating in 2022. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

HOUSTON — Thousands of chemical facilities are scattered across Texas. But unless you see a smoke stack at a large plant, you may not know what exactly is stored next door to your home. 

So in 1986 the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know act was passed. It was created in response to concerns regarding the environmental and safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains that the concerns “were triggered by the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India, caused by an accidental release of methylisocyanate. The release killed or severely injured more than 2000 people.”

To reduce the chance of a disaster like that in the United States, Congress imposed requirements for federal, state and local governments. 

The Community Right-to-Know provisions increase the public’s knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment. 

In 2018 the America’s Water Infrastructure Act was added to the emergency release notification and the hazardous chemical inventory reporting requirements. That legislations requires state response commissions to notify the applicable state agency of any reportable releases and provide community water systems with hazardous chemical inventory data. 

So what are the Community Right-to-Know requirements? Facilities handling or storing any hazardous chemicals must submit Material Safety Data Sheets to state and local officials and local fire departments. Hazardous chemicals are defined under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and its implementing regulations. MSDSs describe the properties and health effects of these chemicals. Facilities must also submit an inventory form for these chemicals, to state and local officials and local fire departments.

So in Texas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality oversees “Local Emergency Planning Committees” or LEPCs. They are voluntary organizations that collect the information required under the Community Right-to-Know Act. Membership in a LEPC comes from different organizations including the chemical industry, fire departments, emergency medical services, law enforcement, city or county emergency management and residents. 

And each LEPC holds public meetings to discuss chemical facilities that impact the public. 

All info courtesy ReadyHarris.org.

Meets: The 4th Tuesday of every month (no meeting in July or December)
Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Location: Deer Park City Hall    
710 East San AugustineDeer Park, TX 77536    
Chairman: James J. Stokes - Deer Park City Manager
Vice Chair: Kevin Machemehl - Oxy Vinyls
Contact: Shannon Bennett

Meets: The last Tuesday of every other month (January, March, May, etc.)
Time: 11:30 AM
Location: Alvin D. Baggett Community Building
1302 Keene Street
Galena Park, TX 77547

LEPC Contact Name & Number:
Jorge Flores, EMC of Galena Park
Chairman: Jorge Flores, EMC of Galena Park
Vice-Chair: David Clark - Targa Resources

Meets: The 3rd Tuesday of every month
Time: 12:00 PM
Location: Office of Emergency Management
205 E. Wye Drive
Baytown, TX 77521
Chairman: Tony Irby - LCY Elastomers
Vice Chair: Larry Cloud - Dow Pipeline
LEPC Contact: Misty Bridges

Meets: Quarterly
Location: Rotational
Chairman: Joe Leonard - PENTA
Vice Chair: Rick Deel - Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management
Administrator: David Wade

Meets: The last Wednesday of every other month (January, March, May etc.)
Time: 9:00 AM
Location: American Red Cross Building
2700 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77098
Chairman: Dr. Denise Chatam Walker
Vice Chair: Karen LaFleur

James Nykaza - Emergency Management Coordinatorjnykaza@cityofhumble.net
Carole Chambers - Emergency Management Assistant   cchambers@humblepolice.com

Meets concurrently with the North Channel LEPC
Meets: See website (www.nclepc.org) for meeting schedule
Time: 11:30 AM
Location: Galena Park ISD Administration Building
14705 Wood Forest Blvd.
Houston, TX 77015
Chairman: Lon Squyers - Jacinto City
Administrator: Debbie Husband

Meets: A member of Greater Harris County LEPC / Meets quarterly
Chairman: Mark Bitz - Fire Chief, City of Jersey Village

Meets: Currently meeting with the Greater Houston LEPCs
Chairman: Greg Goedecker, EMC
Katy Fire Department
1417 Ave. D
Katy 77493

Location: Galena Park ISD Administration Building
14705 Wood Forest Blvd.
Houston, TX 77015
Chairman: Lon Squyers - Jacinto City
Administrator: Debbie Husband

Eric Vega - Fire Marshal/EMC
City of South Houston
email: evega@shpdtx.org

Meets: See website for schedule
Time: 11:30 AM
Location: Pasadena Convention Center
7902 Fairmont Parkway
Pasadena, TX 77507
Chairman: Ben Reese - Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority
Vice Chair: Darryl Ramsaywak - Arkema
LEPC Contact Number:
Josephine Espinosa

Meets: 4th Wednesday Each Month
Time: 08:30
Location: Tomball Fire Department Main Station 1
1200 Rudel Rd.
Tomball, TX 77375
Chairman: Randy Parr - Fire Chief, City of Tomball
Contact: Barbara Tague

Fort Bend County 

Website with agendas and meeting announcements:

Brazoria County

Info source
Brazoria County’s L.E.P.C. normally meets every third Tuesday of odd numbered months at 11:30 am.
Next meeting is on March 17, 2020 at the Sheriff’s Office Training Room

Montgomery County 

Does readily offer any info:
You need to email their LEPC mclepc@mctx.org
Or call the Montgomery County Fire Marshal for more info
501 N Thompson, Suite 102, Conroe, Texas 77301
Phone: 936-538-8288
Fax: 936-538-8277