New president reverses Bush-era legislation

President Obama has reinstated stronger requirements governing the reporting of toxic chemical releases by American facilities to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Legislation he signed into law on 10 March overturns a December 2006 Bush Administration rule limiting the reporting of these emissions.

The provision, included in a government spending bill, reverses a Bush-era change that raised by 900 per cent the waste emission threshold which triggered detailed reporting requirements to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Under the Bush administration, the cutoff rose from 500 pounds (227 kilograms) to 5000 pounds (2,268 kilograms).

The American Chemistry Council - a major chemical company trade group -supported the now defunct Bush policy change, which would have allowed many more chemical companies and facilities to fill out a short form report to the TRI programme. The TRI is the EPA’s  public database of toxic chemical release and waste management information, reported annually.

’According to EPA’s own estimates, TRI reporting costs the regulated community about $650 million [?466 million] a year, and we believe that changes in the system that improved the quality of the data, maintained reporting requirements for covered chemicals, and produced reporting efficiencies are worthwhile,’ states Mike Walls, ACC’s vice president. ’We believe that there is significant value in the TRI programme and we would like to leverage that value while doing so in an efficient manner.’

He says many ACC member companies file the long TRI form and would most likely continued to do so had the changes proposed under Bush remained in effect. In fact, ACC says most of its member companies have regularly used the long form since 2006.

The American Chemical Society, an association representing chemistry professionals, is pleased that the Obama administration is focusing on toxic substance reporting issues. 

’I think it bodes well that they intend to collect and use high-quality scientific information when making policy decisions,’ says ACS spokesperson Glenn Ruskin.

Rebecca Trager, US correspondent for Research Day USA

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