Tuesday, December 26, 2006

WA Ecology unhappy with EPA's "relaxed toxics reporting"

"FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Dec. 22, 2006 06-268 Relaxed federal toxics reporting affects Washington residents OLYMPIA - The head of Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) expressed disappointment today that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has relaxed pollution-reporting rules requiring industries to report the toxic substances they create. "This change means that the people of Washington state will lose valuable information regarding up to 1.5 million pounds of toxic releases annually in and near communities throughout the state," said Ecology Director Jay Manning. "Additionally, we could lose all release data for eight of the top 40 facilities with the highest relative risk ranking, based on 2002 information." Manning added: "The Toxics Release Inventory is part of the federal Community Right to Know Act, and the new, relaxed EPA reporting requirement denies our citizens information they have a right to. This federal decision not only reduces our ability to protect public health and the environment, but it also threatens the public's trust in their government." On Monday, EPA adjusted pollution-reporting requirements for manufacturers that it keeps in an information database called the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Federal law requires that industrial facilities and manufacturing plants report specific toxic chemicals discharged based on their use of the chemical, even if they are not discharged in toxic amounts at any one time. The changes, issued in the name of reducing burden to industry, won't result in a significant reduction in the time it takes industry to meet the requirements, Manning said. However, it will deprive the public of information they have been entitled to since 1987. The new federal requirement allows more businesses to use a short form to report the name of the chemical used or released. Previously, these businesses were required to report detailed information about how a chemical was used, released, transferred, burned for energy recovery, recycled or disposed off site. The TRI tracks 650 chemicals that are in commercial use. Manning said the current TRI reporting requirements have worked well. They have helped regulators keep track of releases of pollution and helped agencies such as Ecology focus resources on areas where pollution-prevention efforts can pay off. In fact, many businesses use the inventory as an opportunity to show how little pollution they release. The inventory provides critical information to Washington residents and to the news media regarding toxics produced in their communities. "To weaken these regulations is a step backwards and a disservice to the public and increases the risk toxic chemicals pose to human and environmental health," he said. Ecology is particularly concerned about certain long-lasting, toxic substances, such as mercury , that build up in the tissues of humans and animals. Statewide mercury releases dropped 11 percent from 2001 to 2002, a trend Ecology wants to see continue, Manning added. Ecology is working to reduce toxic chemicals in Washington. There are about 80,000 chemicals in use in the U.S. today and while many of them have added to society's quality of life, the health effects from the thousands of these chemicals, particularly on young children, is not known. # # # Media contact: Sandy Howard, public information manager, 360-407-6408"

Here is the link to EPA's explanation of the new rule.