EPA Watchdog Investigating Potential Enforcement Failure of Critical Pollution Monitoring Program

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For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog is launching an investigation over whether the agency has failed to enforce a critical program that tracks toxic spills into the environment.

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General notified the agency’s enforcement chief that the investigation “will address whether the EPA is taking enforcement actions against companies that delay required reporting of chemical release data” to the Toxics Release Inventory, or TRI.

The TRI is the EPA’s critical right-to-know program, tracking the release of toxic pollution from industrial operations, including chemical manufacturers, metal mining, electric utilities and waste management companies. The data is available on a public database, allowing anyone to enter in a zip code to see how much pollution was released into a particular community each year.

The EPA’s enforcement office is headed by Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine. Bodine was a top aide to Sen. James Inofe (R-Okla.) when he was chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe is best known for his denial of human-caused climate change, calling it a “hoax.” Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and his chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, are also both former Inhofe aides.

Earlier this year, Bodine ordered EPA regional offices to brief her before referring enforcement cases to the Justice Department, raising concern that a Trump political appointee could stifle enforcement of anti-pollution laws.

The TRI program was established in 1986 during the Reagan administration. It is considered one of the EPA’s most significant accomplishments, providing the public with data that empowers citizen campaigns to reduce toxic discharges by polluting industries.

“The TRI program has been instrumental in helping reduce the amount of toxic waste into our environment and inform the public about pollution in their own communities,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “If the Trump EPA is failing to enforce it, that would be a grievous abandonment of its responsibility to ensure the public’s right to know.”

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