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JULY 2006

 

Controversy surrounds Toxic Release Inventory Program

Legislation is pending regarding reforms to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program, a bill that if ratified, would reduce reporting burdens for businesses that handle toxic wastes.

The reforms were brought forward by the Environmental Protection Agency, with the support of the Bush administration.

Established in 1988, TRI collates data on the release of approximately 650 chemicals and chemical categories from industrial facilities.

An amendment to the TRI regulations, included in a House of Representatives appropriation bill, was approved by the House on May 18 by a 231-187 vote. The amendment, which was proposed by two Democratic congressmen, now requires Senate approval.

In September 2005, the White House put forward a proposition to expand the use of a shortened reporting form, based on the premise that it would save 165,000 hours annually that is dedicated to reporting requirements. Despite the reduction in paperwork requirements, it was stated that more than 99 percent of toxic releases and other waste management procedures involving toxic materials would continue to be reported.

Furthermore, the EPA put forward plans to implement an every other year reporting requirement instead of the current annual requirement. Although this proposal is not part of the appropriations bill, the majority of critics and supporters that submitted briefs, commented on the change in frequency issue.

The changes, claim the opponents, would deny the right of communities to be informed on the amount of harmful chemicals that are released into their communities.

“By agreeing to our amendment,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-NJ, a co-sponsor of the amendment, told the media, “the House prevents the EPA from undermining a program that has played a pivotal role in protecting public health.”

In response to critics, the EPA has stated:

  • That approximately one-third of the companies that file TRI reports would save time and labor via the reformed reporting system, without taking into account the change in frequency issue.
  • That all firms and the EPA itself would profit from a major reduction via the alternate-year reporting schedule.

Additionally, the EPA proposes to relax the threshold for filing the TRI short form, which omits information, including quantities that are released. Hence companies that generate fewer than 5,000 pounds per year of chemical production waste that is characterized as not persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic (non-PBT), would be able to utilize the short form. The present threshold is 500 pounds per year.

Furthermore, a first for companies, the short form could be used for the reporting of specific PBT chemicals, minus dioxin and dioxin compounds.


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