EPA Restores Stricter Reporting of Storage and Release of Toxic Chemicals; Obama Reversing Bush Policies

The Environmental Protection Agency, under the direction of President Barack Obama, will once again require thousands of facilities located across the United States that release toxic chemicals into the air, water, or land to fully disclose the nature and amounts of what they are releasing, officials said.

The move announced this week is a reversal in policy for the EPA, which under former President George W. Bush did not require companies to fully disclose the release of toxic chemicals. It also represents a significant victory for environmental and community activists who are at increased risk of suffering devastating injuries caused by toxic materials that seep into underground drinking water, the ocean, recreational lakes and streams, and other public areas.

Under the Bush rules, which were loosened in 2006, companies releasing or storing smaller amounts of toxic materials were allowed to file less-detailed information to government regulators. More than a dozen states sued the EPA over the reduced disclosure requirements and said the easier rules put their citizens at risk of danger from exposure to the chemicals.

An estimated 3,500 facilities located across the United States are covered by EPA rules, called the Toxics Release Inventory, for the storage and disposal of toxic materials. The listing has been compiled over the past two decades.

Bush Loosened Rules

President Bush allowed companies using less than 5,000 pounds of toxic materials or releasing less than 2,000 pounds to get away with reporting fewer details about what they were handling. Before Bush scaled back the regulations, companies were forced to provide more documentation about as little as 500 pounds of chemicals. The result in Bush reducing the threshold was a 25-percent reduction in the number of emissions reports the government received each year.

New EPA Rules Set to Go Into Effect

The EPA’s restored rules under Obama will roll back the regulations to the pre-Bush numbers. They will go into effect and apply to all emissions reports due in July 2009 and covering emissions during 2008, officials said.

Tougher disclosure rules for facilities storing and releasing toxic materials is a necessary step in better protecting our communities. By keeping closer tabs on which materials are being stored and released into the environment, the EPA will be in a far better position to ensure that potentially deadly industrial chemicals are handled properly and legally. Restoring the previous disclosure rules, which were relaxed by former President Bush, is a welcome shift in our nation’s ongoing environmental protection efforts.

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