Undisclosed Pollution

Local Impacts of the Bush Administration’s Attack on the Toxics Release Inventory Program
Released by: PIRGIM Education Fund

Since 1987, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program has been the nation’s premiere pollution disclosure program. By requiring companies to disclose the pollution they release to our air, water, and land, transfer off site, or dispose in a waste dump, the TRI program has ensured the public’s right-to-know about toxic pollution in communities.

The TRI program is under attack. The Bush Administration has issued a series of proposed changes over the past few years, some of which would weaken the program by reducing the amount or quality of information available to the public. In the fall of 2005, however, the Bush Administration proposed the most significant changes yet. These changes to the TRI are threefold:

• A rule to allow companies to release 10 times as much toxic pollution before they are required to report their releases; 

• A rule to allow companies to withhold information about some of the most dangerous chemicals, such as lead and mercury; 

• A notification to Congress that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson intends to release a rule changing the frequency of reporting to the program from every year to every other year.

Local communities would feel the greatest impact of these proposed changes. Grassroots Connection analyzed the local impact of these proposed rules and found the following:

• 156 facilities in Michigan would no longer be required to report their releases to the TRI. 

• Michigan would lose one hundred percent of the reporting for 2-methyllactronitrile, or acetone cyanohydrin. This chemical is a suspected neurological and respiratory toxicant. 

• Many communities in Michigan would be severely affected. For example, people living in 29 zip codes would lose one hundred percent of the pollution information reported in their area.

In order to protect the publics right-to-know about pollution in their neighborhoods, the Toxics Release Inventory should be strengthened, not weakened. The Bush Administration should drop this proposed rule, and instead look for ways to strengthen and expand this successful pollution disclosure program.

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