Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bush administration drops easier TRI reporting plan

As users of EPA's TRI data in the US it is good news, and also a sign that things have changed in the US with recent democratic gains, that the EPA has dropped plans that would have resulted in up to 1/3 of plants no longer having to report.

As environmental economists, if we are to generate insightful policy perscriptions and continue to publish academic papers that nobody reads, the provision of high quality data is essential. It would be a step backwards if the level of reporting requirements actually declined.

Randy Becker at the Center for Economic Studies U.S. Bureau of the Census does a lot of the cutting edge work in this area.

The guys at also have a "poll" on their blog that asks:

"How likely do you think it will be that at least one branch of Congress will pass meaningful global warming legislation next year?"

I am not sure where this story fits in although I believe I ticked the "Your guess is as good as mine" button.

Environment Agency Drops Part of Its Plan to Ease Pollution Reporting Rules
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration, looking at the prospect of stronger oversight from a Democratic-led Congress, is withdrawing a proposal to let big polluters report less often on what they spew from their smokestacks.

The administration, however, is going ahead with a plan to make one-third less provide detailed figures at all.

The government last year proposed easing air regulations to exempt some companies from having to tell the Environmental Protection Agency about what it considers to be small releases of toxic pollutants.

That proposal is still alive. But abandoned now is the idea of making companies that must make such reports, known as toxic release inventory, do so every other year instead of annually.

"You will be pleased to know that I have decided against moving forward with changes to TRI reporting frequency," EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson wrote Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez this week.

Johnson decided the program would not be effective unless the reporting was done each year, agency spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said Thursday.

The EPA does plan to change the inventory requirements, easing what it called the "regulatory burden" on companies through use of a short form for reporting toxic pollution.

Currently, some 23,000 facilities are required to submit reports annually if they release more than 500 pounds (227 kilograms) of the worst toxic pollutants. Those include mercury, DDT, PCBs and other chemicals that persist in the environment and work up the food chain.

Johnson made clear in his letter Tuesday to the senators that the administration plans in 2007 to raise that threshold reporting requirement to 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms). Companies would be exempt from the reporting requirements if they store the pollutants on site and claim to release "zero" amounts into the environment.

According to EPA officials, the higher threshold would free one-third of the 23,000 facilities from the reporting requirements. They include mining, utility, oil, rubber, plastics, printing, textile, leather tanning and semiconductor operations.

For a longer Washington Post story click here.

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