Right-to-Know Rollback will Hide Data on 600K lbs of Toxics in California
SACRAMENTO, April 12 – The Bush Administration has adopted regulations that will dramatically roll back Americans' right to know about chemical hazards in their neighborhoods, allowing California industries to handle almost 600,000 pounds of toxic chemicals a year without telling the public, according to a report released today by Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The rollback will allow 274 industrial facilities in 30 California counties to stop detailed reporting on the use or release of 595,422 pounds of hazardous chemicals a year.
In Los Angeles County alone, 247,097 pounds of chemicals a year, from 107 facilities, will no longer be subject to reporting. In Alameda and Contra Costa counties combined, almost 66,000 pounds from 29 facilities will no longer be reported. In Orange County, more than 58,000 pounds from 27 facilities will no longer be reported.
The EWG report, which is searchable by county, chemical and facility, is available at www.ewg.org.
In the state liegislature, Assemblymember Ira Ruskin of Redwood City has introduced AB 833, a bill would require California industries to continue complete reporting of chemical emissions, despite the EPA rollback. This week the bill passed the Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committee, and ow heads to the Appropriatons Committee.
"It is unfortunate that California must once again defend itself from a Bush Administration action that harms the health of people and turns its back on scientific knowledge. In this case, the affected industry did not even clamor for the reporting rollbacks granted by Bush's EPA," said Ruskin. "My legislation ensures that the people of California maintain the same rights to know despite the efforts of the Bush Administration to curtail that right."
For more than 20 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program has required industrial facilities to report the release, disposal, incineration, treatment or recycling of 650 chemicals covered by the law. But late last year, the EPA gutted the TRI by sharply raising the detailed reporting threshhold so that only releases of at least 2,000 pounds of chemicals will be reported. Facilities that don't meet the threshold must only indicate that they use a chemical.
EWG's investigation of TRI data from 2004 found that the EPA rollback deals a crippling blow to Californians' access to information about toxic chemicals in their communities:
- The rollback will allow 52 California facilities to stop reporting any details of their use or release of toxic chemicals. These facilities will be allowed to handle 69,426 pounds of toxic chemicals a year without detailed public disclosure.
- Chemicals for which reporting will be slashed or curtailed are among the most hazardous to human health. The rollback will end annual reporting in California of more than 41,000 pounds of ethylbenzene, 10,000 pounds of styrene, 12,000 pounds of benzene and almost 16,000 pounds of chromium and chromium compounds - all known or suspected carcinogens. It will also eliminate annual reporting for more than 6,000 pounds of chemicals that meet the EPA's criteria for persistent bioaccumulative toxins, or PBTs - chemicals that present the greatest threats to human health and the environment.
- Although the rollback will reduce the total amount of chemicals used in California that must be reported to the TRI by less than 1 percent, reporting for many individual chemicals will drop sharply. All reporting will end for five different chemicals and reporting will drop by 10 percent or more for 69 chemicals.