Thursday, March 12, 2009

Toxics Release Inventory Detailed Data Requirement Restored

The $410 billion ‘‘Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (spending bill) (H.R. 1105) that President Barack Obama signed on March 11 will reinstate detailed toxic chemical reporting at more than 3,500 facilities nationwide that is included in the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI program is the federal public right-to-know program for toxic chemicals. Health officials, federal, state and local governments, businesses and the public all use TRI to understand and reduce threats to public health. The law came in the wake of the tragic disaster at a Union Carbide facility in Bhopal, India, killing thousands of people. Congress passed the law to ensure that communities know how much of a variety of dangerous industrial chemicals are released into the air, water and ground.

In 2006, as a response to terrorism concerns, the Bush administration reduced the amount of information that facilities storing and releasing smaller amounts of toxic chemicals had to submit to the federal government. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who authored the portion of the 1986 law requiring toxics reporting, sponsored the provision, believing terrorism threats have been reduced enough to restore the public's right to know about chemicals in their air and water.

Officials from industries affected by the rule, who estimate they spend $650 million a year complying with the current reporting requirements, believed the changes adopted under Bush lightened their regulatory burden without jeopardizing public health. Companies using less than 5,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, or releasing less than 2,000 pounds, could use shorter, less detailed forms. Congressional auditors believed the change would have cut by a quarter the number of emissions reports the government receives each year.

New Jersey and 12 other states recently sued the EPA to restore the old reporting thresholds.

(AP,,, OMB Watch)

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