Web Date: October 10, 2007
Toxics Release Inventory Rule Assailed
Many facilities that now can provide less information about their chemical releases due to a recent EPA rule are located in minority and low-income communities, triggering environmental justice concerns, according to a Government Accountability Office official.
Under a rule EPA issued in late 2006, about a third of the roughly 24,000 facilities that file Toxics Release Inventory reports could switch to filing a shorter form rather than a long form. The long form asks for the volume of the substance released and whether the chemical is released to air, water, or land; the short one does not (C&EN, Jan. 1, page 10).
John B. Stephenson, director of natural resources and the environment at GAO, said that in preparing the rule, EPA failed to follow "key aspects of its internal guidelines" for issuing regulations. For example, he told the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment & Hazardous Materials on Oct. 4, the agency failed to check for possible environmental justice impacts.
EPA actually claimed the rule would not have impacts on poor or minority neighborhoods. Yet the agency "did not support this assertion with adequate analysis," Stephenson said.
This omission is significant, he said. Many facilities that can switch to the short form are in minority and low-income communities, meaning the rule could disproportionately affect these neighborhoods, Stephenson stated.
GAO has been critical of the rule, estimating it will save companies little money—averaging less than $900 per facility annually—but will substantially reduce the amount of information available to the public (C&EN, Feb. 12, page 58). Stephenson told the subcommittee that by switching to EPA's electronic reporting forms, businesses will save far more money and time than the new rule will.
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