Hundreds of national, state, and local groups and individual signers have called on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to reverse a 2006 Environmental Protection Agency rule that limits public access to information about toxic chemical releases. The rule, finalized in December 2006, allows industries to withhold information on the quantities and locations of toxic chemical releases previously reported to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), according to a press released issued by OMB Watch and U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups).
Delivering a letter signed by 238 state, local, and national organizations, along with nearly 1,300 individual signers, the groups urged the EPA to settle an ongoing lawsuit with 13 states and invalidate the Toxics Release Inventory Burden Reduction Final Rule (71 Federal Register 76932-45).
"The Bush Administration’s rollbacks set a dangerous precedent undermining two decades of public access to toxic pollution data," said U.S. PIRG Public Health Advocate Liz Hitchcock. "Congress established the TRI program to serve the public by providing information about toxic releases in our communities, and we urge the Obama Administration to restore the public’s right to know."
The TRI makes public information about toxic chemical releases by requiring industrial facilities to disclose their toxic pollution and waste management activities.
A pending lawsuit filed by 13 states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) challenges EPA’s rule as a violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 – the law that created the TRI. The suit alleges that EPA violated the act by eliminating a substantial majority of the toxic chemical information, by arbitrarily reversing a previous policy on collecting data for a dangerous class of persistent and bioaccumulative toxics, and for improperly attempting to limit the public disclosure of information.
The lawsuit followed a California law enacted in response to EPA’s rule. The law requires California facilities to continue full TRI reporting as if EPA’s rule did not exist. EPA’s right-to-know restrictions have also been opposed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the U.S. House of Representatives, more than 122,000 public commentors, and the EPA’s own Science Advisory Board. In congressional testimony, the Government Accountability Office stated, "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."
"The EPA should listen to the will of the American people," said OMB Watch Policy Analyst Brian Turnbaugh. "The TRI program has been tremendously successful at forcing reductions in pollution. A restoration of the previous reporting rule would ensure that Americans nationwide do not lose crucial information on the pollution that is impacting their communities."