HTML _ 97-970 - Toxins Release Inventory: Do Communities Have a Right to Know More?
26-Oct-1997; Linda-Jo Schierow

Abstract: In 1986, Congress directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a national inventory of toxic releases to the environment by manufacturing facilities and to use the inventory to inform the public about chemicals used and released in their communities. Since enactment of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) more than 10 years ago, manufacturers have been required to report releases of hundreds of hazardous chemicals annually. EPA compiles the reported information into the Toxics Release Inventory (TM) and distributes it in various written and electronic forms. EPCRA Section 313 specified covered chemicals and industries but also authorized expansion of TM reporting requirements to additional industries and chemicals. In 1991, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) evaluated EPA's TM program and reported that although Till had become a valuable source of information for many user groups, it would be more useful to regulators and the public if it were a more comprehensive inventory. GAO recommended expanding TM to include reports from federal facilities and possibly from nonmanufacturing facilities. It also suggested that EPA evaluate additional toxic chemicals and develop a strategy to publicize data availability. EPA began in 1992 to evaluate options for expanding TM reporting requirements, and President Clinton effected the first significant expansion of the reporting universe when he issued an executive order in 1993 requiring federal facilities to submit TM reports. In 1994, EPA announced a three-pronged plan to further expand reporting requirements. EPA would expand: 1) the number of chemicals, 2) the categories of facilities, and 3) the kinds of information required to be reported. The Agency promulgated the first rule implementing expansion plans in November 1994. Many affected industries oppose initiatives to expand the TM, but a clear consensus on the issue has not emerged in the Congress. The 104th Congress considered but did not enact legislation that would have curtailed EPA's authority to expand TM reporting requirements. Other legislation would have mandated TM expansion. The 105th Congress continues to reflect a range of views about expansion of TM reporting requirements and may reconsider the benefits provided by the inventory in light of the cost of data collection. Key potential advantages of TM expansion include an improved environmental database, help for EPA in complying with other congressional directives, citizen empowerment, a more rational economic market, increased fairness in TM reporting, and better environmental protection. Key potential disadvantages include the costs to regulated industries; disclosure of confidential business information; a low level of incremental benefits relative to costs; lack of clear statutory authority for EPA action; and a focus on reducing chemical use rather than risk. Two general policy issues raised by the proposed TM expansion are how much information TM should provide, and how TM data may be usefully packaged without imparting a bias. [read report]

Topics: Pesticides

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