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March 10, 2008
Volume 86, Number 10
p. 12


Streamlining Data

Companies opt to provide less information on Toxics Release Inventory reports

Cheryl Hogue

MORE CHEMICAL makers are submitting less information to EPA about their releases of toxic substances, according to data the agency has provided to C&EN.

EPA says a key regulatory change has meant that more companies are filing less information.

In late 2006, the agency made a change to requirements for Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reports. The modification allowed more facilities to use a shortened form when filing annual TRI reports (C&EN, Jan. 1, 2007, page 10). The long form asks for the volume of the substance released and whether the chemical is released to air, water, or land; the short one does not require either piece of information.

"It is reasonable to assume that some of this change [in reporting] occurred as a result of the rule" allowing the use of the short form for releases or disposal of less than 2,000 lb of any chemical listed on TRI, the agency says in a statement. Previously, facilities could use the short form only if they released or disposed of less than 500 lb per year of a listed substance.

EPA data show that chemical makers filed 3,879 short forms to report TRI releases in 2006, the first year affected by the regulatory change. That is 623 more than, or a 19% increase from, the 3,256 short forms filed by this sector for 2005 releases, according to the agency. EPA released 2006 TRI data in late February.

Meanwhile, the chemical wholesale sector increased its use of the short form by 22% between 2005 and 2006, from 1,266 short forms filed in 2005 to 1,543 in 2006, the EPA data show.

For all industries, use of the TRI short form in 2006 was up 13% over 2005, according to the agency.

But EPA adds, "We cannot say with any certainty how much of the increase is due to the rule change." Facilities could have lowered their releases to have qualified to use the shorter form, the agency says.

The rule change, championed by the Bush Administration, has drawn ire from Congress and environmental groups, who say it will reduce the amount of information available to the public about releases of chemicals. The Government Accountability Office determined that the rule change will cause the public to lose a substantial amount of information about chemical releases although facilities filing TRI reports will, on average, save only $900 a year (C&EN, Feb. 12, 2007, page 58).

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