November 1, 2005


The Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to
significantly roll back reporting of toxic pollution under the
agency's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI program, which tracks
the amount of toxic chemicals manufacturing facilities release into
the environment, has been a widely used measurement for protecting
public health and the environment.

According to EPA's own data, the simple act of reporting and
disclosing these releases has prompted corporations to cut toxic
pollution nearly in half. Despite this success, EPA is proposing to
significantly roll back the program's reporting requirements in order
to reduce the paperwork burden on corporations.

The reporting changes have met with strong opposition from community
groups, public interest watchdogs and members of Congress.

Senator James Jeffords, ranking member of the Senate Environment
Committee, said "This proposal would deny communities up-to-date
information about local toxic releases, reduce incentives to minimize
the generation of toxic waste and undermine the ability of public
health agencies and researchers to identify important trends." [1]

The EPA has proposed three changes in TRI reporting:

Move from the current annual reporting to every other year reporting
for all facilities, essentially eliminating half of the TRI program.
Allow companies to release 10 times as much pollution (raising the
reporting threshold from 500 pounds to 5,000 pounds) before requiring
them to report on how much pollution was produced and where it went.
Allow facilities to withhold information on low-level production of
persistent bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs), including lead and mercury,
which are dangerous even in very small quantities because they are
toxic, persist in the environment, and build up in people's bodies.
Sean Moulton, senior policy analyst at OMB Watch, a nonprofit
government accountability group, opposes the reporting changes. "The
EPA wants to help corporations hide toxic pollution. TRI is supposed
to be about protecting and informing communities. These proposals put
companies first and communities last," said Moulton.

Local community groups that rely on the TRI data have also criticized
EPA's proposals. "The proposed changes water down a tool that is vital
to the fight for healthier communities," says Eboni Cochrane, a
community activist working on air quality issues in Louisville. "Our
group used the Toxics Release Inventory to pinpoint specific
facilities that were releasing hazardous pollutants in the air, and
helped us convince the city to pass a better air pollution program."

EPA defends the proposals, claiming they "will provide meaningful
burden reduction while still maintaining the value of the TRI
information." [2] Kim Nelson, EPA's Chief Information Officer, says
the alternate year reporting will allow the agency to save money which
could be used to improve TRI analysis done by EPA. [3]

"That makes as much sense as selling your engine so you can pay to
paint your car," responds Moulton. "The most important part of TRI is
the annual information; it's the engine that has driven toxic
pollution down."

EPA has already published a rulemaking on the two threshold reporting
changes. A 60-day public comment period has begun. As required by law,
EPA informed Congress of its intention to switch to every other year
reporting and must now wait one year before beginning a rule on that


Tell EPA and Congress to keep the TRI program intact through an alert
provided by OMB Watch.



[1] "Precautionary Principlejeffords/press/05/09/092105epa_toxicrule.html" target="_blank">Sen. Jeffords' Response to EPA Proposal to Modify Toxic Release
Inventory Program," Press Release, September 21, 2005.

[2] Toxics Release Inventory Burden Reduction Proposed Rule, EPA,
October 4, 2005.

[3] Kim Nelson's September 21 letter to Congress

BushGreenwatch 1320 18th Street NW 5th Floor
Washington, DC 20036 (202) 463-6670

Copyright 2003 Environmental Media Services