23
Dez
2005

Group decries EPA plan to limit reports of toxins

By Steve Ivey
Washington Bureau
Published December 23, 2005
//www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0512230327dec23,1,6382213.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed

WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of communities in the U.S., including more than two dozen in Illinois, would not learn as quickly about the extent of pollution from businesses in their locales if the Bush administration's proposed toxin reporting rules are adopted, according to a new report by an environmental advocacy group.

Under Environmental Protection Agency regulations, businesses can emit up to 500 pounds of chemicals annually before reporting to the Toxics Release Inventory exactly how much of each pollutant companies release into the air, water or disposal sites. The EPA has informed Congress that it wants to increase that threshold to 5,000 pounds annually.

According to an analysis released this month by the National Environmental Trust, residents in 922 ZIP codes nationwide would lose all data for their communities under the proposed changes because the amount of the pollution would not reach the higher threshold. Meanwhile, 1,608 ZIP codes would lose detailed information about the pollution from at least half the companies in their communities, according to the group. The report says 8,927 ZIP codes include at least one facility that reports to the EPA database.

"Generally, [the database] is not used as often to shut down plants, but to get plants to be more careful about emissions and spills," said Megan Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, another environmental group. "Just by being one of the worst emitters in the database is a source of embarrassment, and they wind up being more careful."

But EPA officials say easing reporting requirements for businesses will save them time and money and aid the agency's push for efficiency. EPA figures show U.S. manufacturers spend about $650 million each year on compliance with the reporting forms. Under the proposed changes, the EPA estimates about a third of the 26,000 companies that report to the database would save about 165,000 hours of work annually.

"This does not affect any [emissions limits] set by EPA programs," said Mike Flynn, the agency's director of the office of information analysis and access. "What we've striven for in the proposals is looking for burden reduction while maintaining the information that's available to the public. On a national level, we will still get 99 percent of the same information we get today, but in a more efficient, streamlined way."

Smaller businesses--such as metal-plating facilities or electronics companies--would benefit most from the changes, Flynn said. Many of those plants produce a small amount of lead waste that all goes to recycling and is never emitted, he said.

According to the National Environmental Trust's analysis, 1,130 businesses in Illinois provide information to the Toxics Release Inventory. Of those, 207--about 18 percent--would no longer be required to provide the detailed information. Residents in 27 ZIP codes statewide would lose access to all detailed data.

In Cook County, the report says 88 of 415 businesses--about 21 percent --could change to less detailed reporting. Residents in nine Cook County ZIP codes would lose access to all detailed information.

The report identified a Weber-Stephen Products Co. plant in Palatine, Ill., as a facility that would switch to the shorter reporting form. Chris Childers, a manager of regulatory affairs for the grilling equipment manufacturer in Chicago, said citizens may still have ways to monitor their emissions.

"We're in a water reclamation district," Childers said. "That means we have to report to Cook County, the state of Illinois and the federal government. We use an environmental consultant to help us make sure we're in compliance. But it makes it a simpler reporting process for us."

But Tom Natan, research director for National Environmental Trust, said any lost information could have dangerous effects.

"This is monumentally ill-conceived," he said. "After what we've seen in the gulf from Hurricane Katrina [where Toxics Release Inventory data helped identify toxins in the floodwaters], I don't think there's a good reason for justifying putting polluter interests ahead of public health and safety."

Flynn said EPA will accept public comments on the proposed changes through Jan. 13.

sivey@tribune.com

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

--------

*EPA To Cut Toxics Reporting
//www.net.org/health/tri.vtml

* The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to cut the amount of information about toxic chemical releases that industrial facilities must report. The proposed cuts pose a risk to communities and to first responders such as police and firefighters. Read more //www.net.org/health/tri.vtml *

Update:* Press briefing mp3 available.

Click here
//www.net.org/health/tri_data/epa_comment.doc
to find out how to submit a comment to EPA.

* * * *

Group decries EPA plan to limit reports of toxins

By Steve Ivey Washington Bureau Published December 23, 2005
//www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0512230327dec23,1,6382213.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed

WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of communities in the U.S., including more than two dozen in Illinois, would not learn as quickly about the extent of pollution from businesses in their locales if the Bush administration's proposed toxin reporting rules are adopted, according to a new report by an environmental advocacy group.

Under Environmental Protection Agency regulations, businesses can emit up to 500 pounds of chemicals annually before reporting to the Toxics Release Inventory exactly how much of each pollutant companies release into the air, water or disposal sites. The EPA has informed Congress that it wants to increase that threshold to 5,000 pounds annually...


Informant: Teresa Binstock
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