Environmental Performance Track's Successes | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 25 | p. 6 | Letters
Issue Date: June 18, 2007

Environmental Performance Track's Successes

Department: Letters

The article about a report by the Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general (IG) on EPA's National Environmental Performance Track program overlooked EPA's response and important aspects of the report (C&EN, April 23, page 36).

Many industrial and commercial facilities are willing and able to make environmental improvements beyond those required by law. The Performance Track program, begun under the Clinton Administration and supported by the Bush Administration, seeks to recognize and encourage such positive behavior.

Members commit to voluntary stretch goals. As EPA explains in its response to the report, stretch goals by definition are hard to achieve. If every goal was met, they wouldn't be much of a stretch. Nevertheless, many members meet and exceed many of their commitments. For example, facilities completing their first three-year membership cycle in 2005 achieved 96% of their water-use reduction goal, 105% of their energy-use reduction goal, and 135% of their hazardous waste goal.

These voluntary achievements translate into real environmental results. From 2001–05, members reduced water use by 3.5 billion gal, greenhouse gas emissions by 97,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, nitrogen oxides by 6,000 tons, sulfur oxides by 17,000 tons, and hazardous waste generation by 133,000 tons. Many are also leading local efforts to protect watersheds. Others are helping suppliers, customers, and other facilities achieve environmental improvements. All provide more environmental performance information to the public than nonmembers and far more than is required.

The article also did not give a full picture of members' environmental compliance and toxic emissions. As the IG's report notes, 81% of sample facilities reported lower toxic releases than others in their sector and 63% had no compliance problems, outperforming others in their sector "in every measure of compliance." Since Performance Track members tend to be large-complex facilities and thus inspected more frequently, these results show strong environmental performance. The IG's report recognized this in its section, "Most Members Are Top Performers."

Your readers deserve to receive balanced information about the 470 Performance Track facilities that have publicly committed themselves to voluntary efforts well beyond their legal requirements, about the 22 states that have seen the value of adopting similar programs, and about nongovernmental organizations such as the Wildlife Habitat Council that work with Performance Track members to achieve real environmental results.

Rick Otis
U.S. EPA, Washington, D.C.

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