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Volume 87 Issue 11 | p. 7 | News of The Week
Issue Date: March 16, 2009

Toxic Release Inventory

Firms must provide more data, not less, according to new legislation
Department: Government & Policy, Government & Policy, Science & Technology | Collection: Sustainability
News Channels: Environmental SCENE

DEEP in the $410 billion government-spending bill for fiscal 2009 that President Barack Obama signed into law is a small section with significant implications for many chemical makers (C&EN, March 2, page 10). That provision will force many industrial facilities to report more information to EPA each year about their releases of toxic chemicals.

The law overturns the Bush Administration's controversial change to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) in late 2006 that allowed more facilities to use a short form when filing annual TRI reports (C&EN, Jan. 1, 2007, page 10). The long form requires data on the volume of the substance released and whether the chemical is released to air, water, or land. The short form does not require either piece of information. Under the Bush Administration change, a facility could file the short form if it released or disposed of less than 2,000 lb of a chemical. The previous standards, now back in force, set a threshold of less than 500 lb for using the short form.

Bush appointees said the change encouraged companies to pollute less so they could file the shorter forms. Environmental advocates decried the move, saying it deprived the public of important right-to-know information.

Under the new spending law, TRI reporting must follow the EPA rules in place before the 2006 modification.

The American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry organization, supported the 2006 modifications to TRI. In reaction to the new law, Michael P. Walls, the group's vice president, says, "We believe that changes in the system that improved the quality of the data, maintained reporting requirements for covered chemicals, and produced reporting efficiencies are worthwhile."

Two New Jersey Democrats—Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.—inserted the TRI provision into the spending bill.

 
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