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E-M:/ News Release: Proposed Bush Administration Toxics Rule Lets Polluters Off the Hook

------------------------------------------------------------------------- Enviro-Mich message from Jason Barbose ------------------------------------------------------------------------- For Immediate Release: December 1, 2005
Contact: Jason Barbose, PIRGIM, (734) 662-6597
Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council, (989) 686-6386
Vicki Levengood, NET, (517) 333-5786
Proposed Bush Administration Toxics Rule
Lets Polluters Off the Hook
 Michigan Would Lose Pollution Information from 156 Chemical Facilities
Ann Arbor, MI – A new PIRGIM analysis of a proposed Bush Administration rule reveals that Michigan residents would lose valuable information about the type and amount of harmful chemicals discharged by industrial facilities in their neighborhoods if the proposal is enacted.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson proposed changes to the Toxics Release Inventory Program (TRI) in October 2005 that would significantly decrease the information that the public, and state and local officials, have about harmful chemicals released into Michigan’s water, air, and land.
“On the anniversary of the deadliest chemical accident in history in Bhopal, India, Administrator Johnson wants to help corporate polluters hide toxic pollution,” stated Barbose.  The Bush Administration’s proposal puts corporations first and communities last.”
In Michigan, the local impact could be widespread.  Analysis of the 2003 Toxics Release Inventory by Grassroots Connections and the National Environmental Trust showed that:
  • 156 facilities would no longer be required to report toxic chemical releases to the public;
  • Michigan would lose all information about releases, transfers, and disposal of 2-methyllactronitrile, or acetone cyanohydrin, which is a suspected neurological and respiratory toxicant.
  • Specific communities in Michigan will be most affected.  Communities in 29 zip codes will lose all the pollution information about chemical releases in their neighborhoods.
In October 2005, EPA Administrator Johnson proposed to cut the amount of pollution information that companies are required to disclose.  These changes to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) would be three-fold:
  • A rule to propose that companies be allowed to release ten times as much pollution before they are required to report their releases;
  • A rule that would allow companies to withhold information about some of the most dangerous chemicals, such as lead and mercury;
  • A notification to Congress that Administrator Johnson intends to release a rule next fall to change the frequency of reporting to the program from every year to every other year.
The TRI program is a pollution disclosure program.  Since 1987, companies have been required to report toxic releases to air, land, and water, as well as toxic waste that is treated, burned, recycled, or disposed of.  Approximately 26,000 industrial facilities report information about any of the 650 chemicals in the program.
The TRI program was established in 1986, following a devastating chemical accident in Bhopal, India.  December 4th marks the twenty-sixth anniversary of this accident, where thousands of people immediately lost their lives from exposure to chemicals, and tens of thousands have since died from continued contamination.  Soon thereafter, Congress passed and President Reagan signed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, which established the Toxics Release Inventory.
The Toxics Release Inventory has been credited with a wide range of successes.  Since the TRI program began, disposals or releases of the original 299 chemicals tracked have dropped nearly 60 percent.  A U.S. PIRG Education Fund analysis showed that releases of chemicals linked to health effects have decreased as well.  Between 1995 and 2000, releases to air and water of chemicals known to cause cancer declined by 41 percent.
“Requiring polluters to report their pollution creates an incentive for these facilities to reduce their pollution,” said Barbose.  “But the Bush administration wants to take this spotlight off polluters and leave the public and Michigan communities in the dark about pollution.”
The Lone Tree Council, a Saginaw-area environmental group that has been very involved in the issue of dioxin contamination says TRI data is absolutely necessary to knowing what companies such as Dow Chemical release into communities.
“In a two year, nationally recognized pollution prevention project with the Dow Chemical Company, TRI data was used to identify toxic releases that should be reduced -- and were -- to the benefit of both the company and community,” said Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council Chairman.  “It would be a shame to lose a future opportunity by delaying release or raising the threshold.”
“Who doesn't believe we all should have the right to know what toxic pollution our families are exposed to as we work and play in our own hometowns? Apparently the Bush administration,” said Vicki Levengood, Michigan Representative for National Environmental Trust.  “If enacted, this proposal will leave us all in the dark about the safety of our own communities.”
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PIRGIM is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization dedicated to environmental protection, consumer rights, and good government.
Lone Tree Council is a Saginaw Bay Watershed non-profit, voluntary environmental group founded in 1978 to address the construction of a nuclear facility in Midland, Michigan.  It recently has been involved in the issue of dioxin contamination in Midland, the Tittabawassee River and floodplain as well as Saginaw River and Bay.
Jason Barbose
PIRGIM Field Organizer

103 E. Liberty St., Suite 202
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
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