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WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today approved legislation to restore public access to information about toxic chemical pollution in communities. The Toxic Right-to-Know Protection Act (S. 595), sponsored by Senators Lautenberg and Boxer, would rescind a recent EPA action curtailing the amount of information available on the federal Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).
“EPA’s recent rule sets a dangerous precedent that undermines two decades of public access to toxic pollution information,” said U.S. PIRG staff attorney Alex Fidis. “Today the committee has recognized that when it comes to toxic pollution, what we don’t know can hurt us, our families and neighbors.”
The TRI provides information to the public about toxic chemicals in communities by requiring industrial facilities to report their toxic pollution and waste management activities. In December 2006, EPA finalized a rule authorizing industrial facilities to withhold previously submitted toxic chemical data.
TRI data is used by communities, emergency responders, and public officials to understand and address both regional and parochial toxic chemical health threats. This regulatory rollback was opposed by agencies and officials representing 23 different states, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the House of Representatives, more than 122,000 public commentors, and EPA’s own Science Advisory Board.
EPA rationalizes the toxic pollution disclosure rollbacks as a means of reducing burden on regulated industries. According to the Government Accountability Office, however, the TRI rollbacks will result in minimal burden reduction with facilities saving less than $900 a year, on average. In exchange for this symbolic burden reduction, the GAO stated that “the TRI reporting changes will likely have a significant impact on information available to the public about dozens of toxic chemicals from thousands of facilities in states and communities across the country.”
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