EPA may reduce online toxic pollution notifications

A government watchdog group is campaigning to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from scaling back an online toxic pollution program.

OMB Watch has posted a call-to-action online opposing the EPA's plan to dismantle the Toxic Release Inventory, which the public-interest group describes as "our nation’s premier tool for notifying the public about toxic pollution."

TRI is a compendium of manufacturers’ toxic release reports, and is available online.

"In a time when people are being exposed to unknown chemicals in the Gulf Coast, we should be arming ourselves with more information, not less," according to a statement issued by OMB Watch.

The EPA is proposing a rule that would raise reporting thresholds, allowing companies to potentially pollute ten times as much before reporting the details in order to save as many as 165,000 labor hours a year. The new rule would affect the reporting of less than 1 percent of all releases, according to the EPA.

The TRI database contains information on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities reported annually by certain industry groups and federal facilities. Manufacturing facilities have been required to submit information since 1987.

The database provides a historical record showing increases or decreases in pollution over time. According to the EPA, manufacturing facilities decreased some types of emissions by 59 percent from 1988 to 2003.

In a related action, the EPA has notified Congress that it plans to issue new rules requiring facilities to report every other year, instead of annually. The EPA is taking this step, similarly, to reduce the reporting burden for industry. It also would save the EPA $2 million during the year with no reporting, the agency said.

The EPA promised to redirect the funds to improve TRI data quality, conduct more analysis and invest in Web-based electronic reporting systems for corporations.

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