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After Pressure from Lautenberg and Menendez, Bush EPA Reverses Course on Part of Dangerous Pro-Polluter Regulations
Lawmakers to Offer Legislation to Eliminate Remaining Parts of Bush Proposal to Gut Right-to-Know LawAlex Formuzis (202) 224-7340
Thursday, November 30, 2006
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After pressure from United States Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to partially reverse its plans to gut the Right-to-Know law that provides communities with information about potentially dangerous chemicals in their area. The lawmakers called the action a small step forward, but pledged to push legislation early next year that would stop the entire anti-environment, pro-polluter Bush plan from moving forward. Lautenberg wrote the Chemical Right-To-Know law back in 1986 in the aftermath of a 1984 chemical disaster in Bhopal, India that killed thousands.
Lautenberg received a letter from EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson this week stating his intention not to move forward with a proposal to allow companies releasing chemicals to report every two years, instead of every year.
“It is welcome news that the Bush Administration is throwing out part of this bad idea, but they still need to get rid of the rest. The Administration’s proposed changes to the Right-to-Know Law would essentially gut it. The Administration’s proposed changes are nothing more than a giveaway to corporate polluters at the cost of everyday Americans’ health. The Democratic Congress is not going to let this kind of irresponsible policy stand. The wise course for the Bush Administration is to drop this entire pro-polluter plan,” said Senator Lautenberg.
“The Bush administration is finally starting to get the point that Senator Lautenberg and I will not stand down when it comes to protecting New Jersey and American families from dangerous pollutants,” Menendez said. “While the Bush administration is starting to get religion, they haven’t fully converted and are continuing their sacrilegious plan to render Right-to-Know laws impotent. Therefore, Senator Lautenberg and I will make them true believers by introducing legislation to reverse their hazardous plans to keep Americans in the dark.”
In addition to altering the frequency of reporting requirements, EPA has proposed allowing chemical facilities to release 10 times more pollution than these facilities can release right now without publicly reporting the releases. Currently, facilities can only release 500 pounds of pollution before having the disclose the information, but the Bush administration has proposed allowing these facilities to release up to 5,000 pounds of pollution before being required to report the details to the public.
Under the Bush proposal people will lose information about toxic chemicals at thousands of facilities released or stored in their communities. The Bush plan would also eliminate reporting requirements of toxic chemical releases from 6,200 facilities nationwide (160 in New Jersey). 1,360 of those facilities (31 in New Jersey) release chemicals that are classified as known or likely carcinogens.
The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) was established as part of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act in 1986, which Lautenberg authored. The program requires owners of facilities to report annually on the amount of toxic chemicals that have been released into the air, water or land. These facilities are also required to report how they dispose of chemicals that are not released to the environment (for example that are shipped offsite for treatment and disposal), or that are treated, recycled or otherwise managed at the facility.
The legislation Lautenberg and Menendez plan to introduce next week will prevent EPA from making any additional attempts to change the frequency of reporting toxic releases. In addition, the measure will prohibit EPA from adopting any of the other changes to the Toxics Release Inventory that the agency has proposed, and stop EPA from shielding information on the use or release of persistent chemicals such as lead and mercury.