Reporting Exemptions for Hazardous Substance Releases
For more information, see our Frequent Questions on Reporting Exemptions.
- Petroleum Exclusion
- Exclusions from Definition of Release
- Exclusions from Definition of Facility
- Releases Permitted Under Other Federal Programs
- Reporting Exemptions for Certain Radionuclide Releases
- Exclusions for Massive Forms of Certain Metals
- Reduced Reporting for Continuous Releases
The Superfund law, also known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA; see CERCLA Overview) specifically excludes petroleum from its statutory provisions including the Superfund reporting requirements. In particular, the law does not address releases of petroleum, including crude oil or any fraction thereof that is not otherwise specifically listed or designated as a hazardous substance under the Superfund law, as well as natural gas, natural gas liquids, liquefied natural gas, or synthetic gas usable for fuel mixtures of natural gas and such synthetic gas. A separate set of Oil Spill Reporting Requirements apply under the Clean Water Act.
Exclusions from Definition of Release
The Superfund law specifically excludes the following from the definition of release and, therefore, the reporting requirements do not apply:
- Any release that results in exposure to persons solely within a workplace.
- Emissions from the engine exhaust of a motor vehicle, rolling stock, aircraft, vessel, or pipeline pumping station engine.
- Certain releases of source, byproduct, or special nuclear material from a nuclear incident.
- Normal application of fertilizers.
Exclusions from Definition of Facility
The definition of facility under the Superfund law specifically excludes consumer products in consumer use. Therefore, releases from such products resulting from their intended use are excluded from Superfund reporting requirements. In addition, Superfund exempts the reporting of releases that result in exposure to persons solely within the workplace and do not constitute a release to the environment. Similarly, the Emergency Preparedness and Community Right-to-Know law exempts from state and local reporting, but not federal reporting, releases of extremely hazardous substances that result in exposure to persons solely within the site or sites in which a facility is located.
The term facility is defined differently under Superfund and the Emergency Preparedness law. The Emergency Preparedness law defines "facility" as "...all buildings, equipment, structures, and other stationary items which are located on a single site or on contiguous or adjacent sites and which are owned or operated by the same person (or by any person which controls, is controlled by, or under common control with, such person)." Whereas the Emergency Preparedness law excludes these terms under its definition of facility, Superfund specifically includes motor vehicles, rolling stock, and aircraft in its definition of facility.
Releases Permitted Under Other Federal Programs
The Superfund law defines federally permitted releases in terms of releases permitted under a number of other environmental statutes. Releases that are federally permitted are exempt not only from the notification requirements under the Superfund and Emergency Preparedness laws, but from Superfund liability as well.
Other exemptions from the reporting requirements specifically provided under other Federal programs include:
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C. The Superfund law exempts from its reporting requirements the release of a substance that is required to be reported (or exempted from reporting) under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and has already been reported to the National Response Center (NRC) under the Subtitle C regulations.
- Registered Pesticide Application. The Superfund law exempts from its reporting requirements the application of a pesticide product registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act or the handling or storage of such product by an agricultural producer. However, accidents, spills, improper application, and improper disposal must be reported.
Reporting Exemptions for Certain Radionuclide Releases
EPA has established administrative reporting exemptions from the reporting requirements of Superfund and the Emergency Preparedness and Community Right-to-Know laws for four categories of radionuclide releases. (The exemptions apply to reporting only; Superfund response and liability provisions continue to apply.) Specifically, the Agency exempted:
- Releases of naturally occurring radionuclides from large generally undisturbed land holdings, such as golf courses and parks.
- Releases of radionuclides naturally occurring from the disturbance of large areas of land for purposes other than mining, such as farming or building construction.
- Releases of radionuclides from the dumping of coal and coal ash at utility and industrial facilities with coal-fired boilers.
- Radionuclide releases to all media from coal and coal ash piles at utility and industrial facilities with coal-fired boilers.
Following the final rulemaking, the American Mining Congress, the Fertilizer Institute, and others challenged the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in TFI v. EPA (935 F2d 1303). The Court found that the administrative reporting exemptions were improperly promulgated because EPA failed to provide adequate notice of and opportunity for comment on those exemptions. The Court, however, left the four exemptions in place while the Agency undertakes a new round of notice and comment rulemaking.
In accordance with the Court's decision, the Agency provided notice and opportunity for comment on the same four reporting exemptions in a November 30, 1992 proposed rule (57 FR 56726). After reviewing the public comment letters submitted on this proposal, the Agency decided to issue a supplemental proposal (60 FR 40042, August 4, 1995) requesting information and comment on broader reporting exemptions for releases of naturally occurring radionuclides associated with land disturbance incidental to extraction at certain kinds of mines, and coal and coal ash piles at all kinds of sites (not just sites with coal-fired boilers). EPA is in the process of developing a final rule on this matter based on combined information and comments received on both the November 30, 1992 proposal and the August 4, 1995 supplemental proposal.
Exclusions for Massive Forms of Certain Metals
EPA allows a reporting exception for massive forms of certain solid metals (antimony, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, selenium, silver, thallium, and zinc) when the diameter of the released metal equals or exceeds 100 micrometers (0.004 inches). The Agency set the cutoff size ten times larger than the maximum size considered by EPA to be respirable dust to ensure that the government would be notified of releases containing small, inhalable particles of metals.
Reduced Reporting for Continuous Releases
Under the Superfund law, EPA is authorized to provide reduced reporting for facilities or vessels that release hazardous substances in a manner that meets the continuous release definition. This reporting relief applies to the notification requirements under both Superfund and Emergency Preparedness and Community Right-to-Know laws. The purpose of the continuous release mechanism is to reduce unnecessary release notifications for releases of hazardous substances that are continuous and stable in quantity and rate. Neither the statute nor the continuous release reporting regulation, however, eliminates the requirement to report altogether.
Continuous releases are not necessarily harmless or risk-free, and government response officials need to receive information about continuous releases of hazardous substances that equal or exceed an RQ in order to evaluate the need for a Federal response action. EPA has established a straightforward, three-step continuous release reporting process.
To participate in the continuous release program, EPA has developed a standard form for release reporting and a guidance document to assist facilities and vessels in complying with the continuous release provisions for reduced reporting. These continuous release program materials are available to you free of charge.