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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Environment - Toxic release inventory under fire, still

Cindy Skrzycki's Washington Post column, The Regulators, reports today:

Opposition is growing to a Bush administration plan to change the reporting requirements of a highly successful public information program that collects data annually on releases of toxic chemicals.

Since 1988, the Toxics Release Inventory has been a roadmap for individuals and community groups interested in pinpointing where the country's most-polluting facilities are located. Some have used the data to pressure companies to clean up their acts. By 2003, 4.4 billion pounds of releases were reported, a 42 percent decline from 1998.

The Reagan administration started the inventory in response to the 1984 chemical disaster at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. The current Environmental Protection Agency system requires annual reporting on 650 chemicals that companies release, dispose of, use, store and recycle. Some 23,000 facilities submitted 91,000 forms last year. * * *

Michael Walls , manager of regulatory and technical affairs for the American Chemistry Council , said, "It's one of the most successful regulatory programs we have been involved in."

But the applause has not stopped the business community -- particularly small business -- from pushing over the past decade to reduce the "burden" of having to fill out a five-page form for each chemical they use every year. This form includes detailed information on the quantity of the chemical, how it is made and processed, and how much of it is released. * * *

On Nov. 10, six members the Senate wrote EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson that they were "troubled" about the EPA's intentions to modify the frequency of reporting and to allow the filing of more short forms, especially for certain especially dangerous industrial chemicals.

Environmental and community groups, in particular, consider the reporting program a great success. And it has become even more useful since the agency has required reports on more chemicals and from more industrial sectors, including mining and electrical utilities. The business community interprets those results in an entirely different way.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 3, 2006 02:14 PM
Posted to Environment