In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Council passed a flurry of laws designed to increase the resiliency of the City during future storm events. One of these laws, Local Law 143, requires operators of facilities that store hazardous substances to file additional information with the City under the Community Right to Know Program. Local Law 143, together with related amendments to the New York City Administrative Code, became effective March 30, 2014 and may change what your facility needs to report for 2015 reporting year. Will your facility be ready to comply with the new requirements?
The New York City Community Right to Know Program is designed to provide citizens and emergency responders information on what hazards the local storage, processing, handling and use of certain hazardous substances may present to their communities. Similar to the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), it was like EPCRA enacted several years after an accidental release of chemicals in Bhopal, India that killed or injured more than two thousand people. After Hurricane Sandy-related flooding overwhelmed significant portions of New York City, the City Council decided that the program should be expanded to help prevent accidental releases of hazardous substances due to future hurricanes or other severe weather.
For the 2015 reporting year, operators of facilities that store hazardous substances (as defined by the New York City Administrative Code) will be required to report to the Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) the applicable "special flood hazard area zone" assigned to the facility by the New York City Building Code, as well as the applicable New York City Office of Emergency Management Coastal Storm and Hurricane Evacuation Zone that the facility is in, if any. In addition, the facility will have to report how its storage procedures take into account threats posed by flooding and extreme weather.
Most importantly, facilities will be required certify that all hazardous substances at the facility are stored in compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules, rules, and regulations. This certification should not be taken lightly, as Local Law 143 authorizes the NYCDEP to assess civil penalties of up to $10,000 for violations of the Community Right to Know law and regulations.
Finally, on or before January 1, 2015, the Commissioner of the NYCDEP will promulgate additional rules for siting and storing hazardous substances that take into account the special threats posed by extreme weather. For more information on these rules, stay tuned to the Periconi, LLC Environmental Law Blog, or contact one of the environmental lawyers at Periconi, LLC.