The HMEP grant program was established in 1990 by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act. In 1993, PHMSA began issuing grants to assist States, Territories, and Native American Tribes to "develop, improve, and carry out emergency plans" within the National Response System and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986. The HMEP grant program is designed to allow grantees the flexibility to implement training and planning programs that address differing needs for each location based on demographics, emergency response capabilities, commodity flow studies, and hazard analysis. The HMEP grant award amount prior to 2009 was $12.8 million; award amounts thereafter were increased to $21.8 million. The $21.8M award is comprised of two allocations: training ($13,650,000-statutory floor) and planning ($8,150,000-statutory ceiling).
Governors in each State, or their counterparts within Territories or Tribes, designate an agency to receive the HMEP grant funds. Agencies submit grant applications to PHMSA annually requesting funds for proposed activities. PHMSA reviews and evaluates applications to make certain the proposed activities support the program mission to ensure the safe transportation of hazmat. If approved, PHMSA offers the agency a Notice of Grant Award (NGA) for acceptance and signature. Once executed, the agency may distribute grant funds in accordance with the planned activities identified in the grant application within the State, Territory, or Tribe to Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and first responder organizations.