"Congress, We Have A Problem"

Earth Day 1996

Monday, April 1, 1996

"Congress, We Have A Problem"

Earth Day 1996

Earth Day would become an annual environmental autopsy if legislation proposed and voted on in the 104th Congress actually became law. Drawing on computer databases and new research, the Environmental Working Group analyzed 12 major pieces of anti-environmental legislation, and found that congressional plans would increase contamination of tap water, cause significantly more pollution of lakes, streams and beaches, accelerate extinction of rare animals and plants, and permit the addition of more carcinogenic pesticides in food.

Foreword by Kenneth A. Cook and Philip E. Clapp

What would Earth Day be like, this year and in years to come, if the 104th Congress had its way?

That may be the most important question Americans could ask themselves on Earth Day 1996. "Congress...We Have a Problem" summarizes a series of state-level reports describing just a few of the things this Congress has in mind for America's air, water, food, land, and wildlife. We think most people will agree that when it comes to the environment, many in Congress are lost in space.

For example, if you're like most people, you probably want fewer cancer causing pesticides in the foods you eat and feed to your kids. If the 104th Congress has its way, we'll have even more carcinogenic pesticides in our diet.

Most Americans believe that when animals and plants are so rare that they are on the verge of disappearing, we should protect them. But Congress has actually barred over 250 species from receiving protection, including the Florida black bear and the U.S. population of jaguars. What's worse, many in Congress are rushing to dismantle the Endangered Species Act altogether. That's the law that saved the American Bald Eagle.

You probably feel that polluters should pay the cost of cleaning up a toxic waste dump that they've left behind in your community. Congress disagrees. "Reform" legislation now pending will let polluters off the hook and make communities pay to clean up toxic dumps--under weaker cleanup standards, to boot.

It makes sense to enforce the environmental laws we already have on the books, right? Many in Congress think otherwise. They've slashed funds for environmental enforcement, pollution research, and community grants to treat contaminated water.

Remember when you could drink a glass of fresh, clean water straight from the tap without worrying about contamination? If the 104th Congress has its way, America will become a nation of bottled water drinkers. Polluters will be allowed to foul tap water sources and water utilities will operate under lax safety standards.

As you read "Congress...We Have a Problem" we think you'll conclude that on issue after issue--from wetlands protection to informing citizens about toxics in their communities, from clean water standards and family planning to clear cut logging on public lands--the 104th Congress has set a course for spaceship Earth that is badly out of touch with the American people. That's the big picture, and it's not a pretty one.

Introduction

"Congress...We Have a Problem" details the environmental impacts of eight specific proposals or actions in the 104th Congress. Reports have been developed for 37 states, as well as this national report that highlights some of the most hazardous and outrageous effects of these proposals on the nation as a whole.

Several additional major initiatives in the 104th Congress take aim at the bedrock environmental safeguards that the American public depends on every day, and affect all states more or less equally. Congressional efforts to slash the EPA budget, enact so-called regulatory reform, undermine the nation's pesticide laws, and eliminate support for family planning efforts in developing nations are just some examples of this type of wholesale rollbacks.

Efforts to dismantle the EPA through drastic budget cuts, and to enact sweeping rollbacks of all environmental laws via "regulatory reform", represent truly unprecedented attempts to simply do away with the basic institutions and laws that have made possible the progress America has made in protecting the environment over the past 25 years.

Congress Dismantles the EPA

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the anti-environmental fervor of the 104th Congress more than the frontal assault on the EPA budget.

In 1995, the House of Representatives voted to cut the EPA budget by 34 percent compared to the previous year's funding, the biggest reduction by far for any major federal agency. Adding insult to injury, the House-passed budget initially contained 17 so-called "riders" that would have prohibited EPA from spending money to enforce many critical provisions of environmental law.

Specifically, this budget bill would have:

  • Slashed funds by 50 percent for enforcement of all environmental laws.
  • Made tap water dirtier by eliminating $725 million in loan funds needed by cities and towns to upgrade deteriorating drinking water treatment and delivery systems.
  • Maintained current levels of cancer-causing pesticides in food by forbidding the EPA from spending any money to enforce the Delaney clause, a ban on cancer causing pesticides in processed foods.
  • Added raw sewage to beaches and waterways by slashing enforcement money to control this pollution.
  • Delayed the cleanup of toxic dump sites by cutting $560 million from the programs supporting their cleanup.
  • Continued the spewing of thousands of tons of toxics into the nations waters by eliminating all funds to establish limits on these discharges.
  • Denied the public's right to know about toxic chemicals released in their communities by sharply cutting funds to support the Toxics Release Inventory.
  • Maintained current levels of toxic air pollution from oil refineries by prohibiting expenditures to implement regulations to reduce this pollution, that were over a decade in the making.

Ultimately these riders were eliminated from the House-passed budget, but efforts to insert them into other environmental laws continue unabated. As matters stand today, there is no agreement between the Congress and the Clinton Administration on the appropriate funding levels for the EPA.

Consequently, the agency is operating under a continuing budgetary resolution that cuts EPA's funding by 20 percent compared to last year's levels. These reduced funds severely hamper the EPA's ability to carry out its congressional mandates. Enforcement actions are off by one third in many regions of the country, meaning that pollution that is illegal and would otherwise be avoided, is occurring with little likelihood of control in the near future.

Regulatory Reform

While the attack on the EPA budget was arguably the most blatant assault, it was just one of many efforts by the 104th Congress to cripple the EPA and weaken the nation's environmental statutes.

So-called regulatory reform bills in both the House and Senate were nothing more than crude overhauls of current law designed to undercut nearly all existing environmental safeguards and require any new regulations designed to protect the environment or public health to clear a gamut of procedural roadblocks. In particular, both Senate and House bills mandated detailed risk assessment and cost/benefit studies which favored polluters, as well as new opportunities for legal challenges which would allow industry lawyers to tie up badly needed environmental safeguards for years.

As part of the "Contract with America" the House passed H.R. 1022, the so-called regulatory reform bill, on February 28, 1995. In the Senate, opponents of an almost identical bill (S. 343) successfully fought off floor consideration with parliamentary tactics on three separate occasions.

More Pesticides in Food

More than half the members of the House of Representatives have signed on to a bill, duplicitously titled "Food Quality Protection Act", that would rollback health and environmental protections that currently govern pesticides in food and the environment. The bill is sponsored by 29 members of the Senate.

The bill, which was drafted by the food and pesticide industries, would:

  • Weaken already meager protections for infants and children
  • Lift a 38-year old ban on cancer causing pesticides in processed foods (the Delaney Clause)
  • Require the EPA, when setting standards, to give greater weight to grower profits than protection of the public health
  • Deny states the right to set stricter standards for pesticides in food.

If passed and signed into law there will be more pesticides in food and water, and the EPA will have virtually no power to ban or restrict the used of the most hazardous pesticides.

International Family Planning

Stabilizing human population growth is critical to achieving environmentally sustainable economic development and reducing poverty worldwide. Family planning and reproductive health programs are critical to efforts to control population growth and protect the health of women and children in the developing world.

Opponents of family planning have raised concerns about U.S. foreign assistance funds being used to perform abortions, even though current law prohibits use of foreign assistance funds for this purpose.

In the Senate, the 1996 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill contained language which prohibited family planning assistance to organizations which, without using U.S. funds, provided legal abortion services or participated in health policy discussions on abortion. Senator Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered an amendment to strike the language.

The House Foreign Operations Appropriations bill contained similar language which was added to the bill on the floor by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ).

Dirtier Tap Water

Most congressional offices have bottled water delivered at taxpayers' expense. If the 104th Congress has its way, America will soon be a nation of bottled water drinkers.

Draft legislation circulated by the Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley of Virginia would gut scores of provisions in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The draft legislation -- which is the main legislative vehicle for drinking water reform in the House -- would weaken the law's basic health standard, delay health standards for highly hazardous contaminants, and reduce the public's right to know about health threats from contaminated drinking water. To make matters worse, the 1995 House and Senate Budgets made dramatic cuts in funding for EPA's drinking water program.

This is no time to weaken laws that keep tap water safe. Already, 50 million Americans each year turn on the tap and drink water that fails at least one federal health standard. In the 1993-1994 reporting period, 11.6 million people drank water containing unsafe levels of fecal bacteria, 22.8 million drink from systems that failed basic safety standards for bacteria, parasites, and microorganisms, 1.7 million drank water that was excessively radioactive, and one million drank water with illegal levels of toxic chemical contamination.

According to scientists with the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one million people each year get sick from drinking unsafe tap water, and approximately one thousand of these people die. Chloroform and other byproducts of chlorination in tap water cause 10,000 cases of urinary bladder and rectal cancer each year.

How it Hurts America

  • The Safe Drinking Water Act has helped thousands of communities including New York City (dangerous bacteria), Chicago (lead), Fort Wayne (pesticides), and Tucson (radioactive tap water) identify or solve a variety of drinking water problems. The draft House reform proposal would weaken the Safe Drinking Water Act, at the same time that Congress has attempted to dramatically cut EPA's budget for enforcement and implementing the law.
  • Over 14 million Americans in hundreds of communities drink tap water contaminated with cancer-causing weed killers, and at least 67 different toxic pesticides have been found in the country's tap water sources. The main House proposal for drinking water legislation would weaken standards and allow even more toxic pesticides and chemicals into the nation's tap water -- while making it more difficult for concerned citizens to receive information about health threats from unsafe drinking water.
  • In 1993 and 1994, over 33 million Americans drank tap water that failed to meet EPA's basic health standards for bacteria, toxic chemicals, fecal matter (E. coli), and other dangerous microbes. The House of Representatives would have cut over $700 million in low interest loans to help cities and towns upgrade drinking water plants.
  • In 1993 and 1994, over ten million Americans in 2,551 communities drank tap water with lead contamination that exceeded the EPA Action Level. The draft House reform of the Safe Drinking Water Act would render a ban on the use of lead in water pipes unenforceable.

Fouling Lakes, Rivers, and Beaches

A House of Representatives rewrite of the nation's Clean Water Act, H.R. 961, set the low water mark for environmental rollbacks in the 104th Congress. If enacted into law, the bill, passed by the House on May 16, 1995, would:

  • Allow untreated sewage to be discharged into coastal waters;
  • Make the cleanup of toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes voluntary;
  • Redefine most of the nation's wetlands out of existence and;
  • Gut EPA efforts to control farm runoff, the single largest source of unregulated water pollution today.

If this "Dirty Water Act" were signed into law, America would forfeit much of the progress made cleaning up the nation's waters over the past 25 years. Standards would be eased and more sewage and toxic chemical pollution would be dumped into the rivers we swim in, the lakes we fish in, and even the reservoirs we drink from.

How it Hurts America

  • H.R. 961 would threaten the country's waters with increased sewage discharges and toxic pollution. A weakened Clean Water Act and congressional budget cutbacks would imperil ongoing efforts to protect many of America's treasured water resources, including the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, and the San Francisco Bay.
  • Thirty eight (38) percent of America's rivers and 44 percent of America's lakes fail to meet Federal standards for fishing, swimming, or other uses. Under H.R. 961 pollution of these waterways would increase, setting back the modest progress on cleaning them up that has been achieved to date.
  • In 1993-94, over 11.6 million Americans drank tap water that was contaminated by fecal matter or other bacteria -- in part because of sewage discharges into rivers and lakes at over 7,500 locations throughout the country. H.R. 961 would weaken sewage treatment requirements for small communities, putting more sewage into the nation's drinking water sources.
  • Approximately nine percent of all private drinking water wells in the country -- used by over 3.8 million Americans -- have nitrate contamination that exceeds EPA standards, posing acute risks to infants. But the Clean Water Act passed by the House of Representatives would virtually eliminate controls on toxic agricultural runoff -- the main source of the nitrate problem.

Drained Dry: Wetlands Protection

On May 16, 1995, the House of Representatives passed the most sweeping bill to weaken federal protections for wetlands--swamps, marshes and similar areas--that has ever been considered by Congress. Among other provisions, the House-passed bill creates a new definition of wetlands that would eliminate protection for 73 million acres of wetlands, or 71 percent of the remaining wetlands in the lower 48 states according to federal officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Agriculture. A bill with an almost identical definition of wetlands is currently pending in the Senate.

Under these bills, many widely recognized and prized wetlands systems, including portions of the Florida Everglades, Virginia's Great Dismal Swamp, wetlands surrounding the San Francisco and Chesapeake bays, and many other wetlands throughout the country, would no longer be recognized as wetlands. Oil and gas extractors, mining corporations, real estate speculators and other wetlands developers would be free to destroy these wetlands with no federal oversight or restrictions whatsoever. Because wetlands act as natural water filters, loss of wetlands that would take place under the two bills would cause substantial harm to water quality in lakes, rivers and streams all across the country.

How it hurts America

  • Of the 104 million acres of wetlands in the country, an estimated 74 million acres--71 percent of the nation's wetlands--would lose all federal Clean Water Act protection under the House and Senate bills.
  • The House and Senate bills would eliminate federal protections for at least 80 percent of existing wetlands in 22 states. In all but 7 states, the two bills would remove at least half of all wetlands from eligibility for Clean Water Act protection.
  • Some states are particularly hard hit. Alabama would lose protection for at least 94 percent of its wetlands. Texas would lose protection for at least 90 percent. New Hampshire would lose protection for 70 to 90 percent of its wetlands. California, which has already lost 91 percent of its historic wetlands base, would lose protection for 70 percent of what remains--paving the way for the eventual loss of all but 3 percent of the state's original wetlands acreage.

Clear Cut Logging

A fiscal year 1995 budget cutting measure (the 1995 Rescissions Act) contained a section mandating "salvage" logging on taxpayer owned public forests. This unprecedented provision, dubbed the "clear cut rider," requires cutting of millions of acres of publicly owned trees that have in any way been damaged by fire, pests, or the weather. Under the law, cutting must occur at accelerated rates with no regard to environmental impact or taxpayer costs required to facilitate the sale.

The rider also requires the immediate initiation of logging on all old growth timber sales offered in Oregon and Washington since 1989 where cutting had been canceled or suspended on environmental grounds by federal courts or agencies. All environmental laws that normally control the environmental damage caused by this logging are suspended, and trees up to 1,000 years old have been felled as a result.

Billions of board feet of timber must be logged in this way, and neither federal agencies nor private citizens may mount a challenge to any agency or in any court of law that environmental laws are being violated. As a result, ancient forests are being destroyed at a frenzied pace and sold at bargain basement prices. Taxpayers lose money and irreplaceable wildlands in the deal.

In March of 1995, Rep. Sidney Yates offered an amendment to strike the clear-cut rider language and require that salvage logging be subject to relevant environmental statutes. The Yates amendment was defeated 150-275. In March 1996, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) offered an amendment that would have repealed the clear cut rider. It was defeated 52-42.

How it Hurts America

  • Nearly 4.5 billion board feet of "salvage" timber nationwide may be cut from taxpayer-owned national forests, including one million or more board feet in 32 separate states, with all environmental laws suspended. An additional half billion board feet of healthy, old growth timber may be cut from publicly-owned forests in Oregon and Washington.
  • To carry away all of the trees that may be cut under the clear cut rider would require more than one million logging trucks, each 65 feet long. Placed end to end, these logging trucks would stretch for more than 12,000 miles--a four-lane, bumper to bumper traffic jam stretching all the way across the country, filled with trees from America's dwindling national forests.
  • Throughout the country, "salvage" timber sales that will be offered under the clearcut rider would not only threaten prized forests, but would also cost taxpayers money. The Forest Service is offering many sales that will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each.
  • Particularly egregious salvage sales include: the Dillon Creek sale in California's Klamath National Forest that would threaten a proposed wild and scenic river, along with the salmon and steelhead runs that it supports; a sale in the Conecuh National Forest in Alabama, comprising 15,000 acres, which threatens one of the last remaining remnants of longleaf pine forest in the southeast, along with many species of imperiled wildlife that rely on longleaf pine habitat for their survival; a sale in Kentucky's Daniel Boone National Forest that threatens a breeding colony of the endangered Indiana bat; the Thunderbolt Wildlife Recovery salvage sales in Idaho, which threaten water quality and fish populations and were opposed by the Forest Service's own biologists as well as other federal and state agencies; and the Copper Butte "salvage" sale in the Colville National Forest in Washington, which contains a significant percentage of healthy old growth trees and will be sold at a loss of at least $125,000 to taxpayers.

Extinction is Forever

Dismantling federal safeguards for imperiled animals and plants has been a priority of the 104th Congress. In 1995, Congress clamped a moratorium on any new listings of threatened or endangered species, such as the Florida Black Bear and Atlantic Salmon, under the Endangered Species Act, denying federal protection to more than 400 species of animals and plants. In addition, Congress curtailed funding for crucial research on imperiled wildlife, and virtually eliminated the National Biological Survey, a fledgling and long-overdue effort to inventory the nation's flora and fauna. In March, 1996, the Senate extended the species protection moratorium until the end of the fiscal year.

In the House of Representatives, 129 members have cosponsored a bill, introduced by Representatives Don Young of Alaska and Richard Pombo of California, that would dismantle most protections under the Endangered Species Act--the intensive care ward of wildlife conservation. Representative Young is the chairman of the House Resources committee which has jurisdiction over the Endangered Species Act, and Representative Pombo is a co-chair of the House Republican Task Force on the Environment.

How it Hurts America

  • Under the endangered species moratorium, 420 imperiled species nationwide have been denied protection under the Endangered Species Act. This includes 238 species that have been officially proposed for listing, and 182 species that are candidates for the endangered or threatened species list.
  • Among the imperiled species that have been denied protection under the moratorium are the Florida black bear, found in Florida and Georgia; the swift fox, found in some mid-western and western states; the Peninsular Ranges population of bighorn sheep in California; the U.S. population of jaguars, found in California, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Texas; and the northern population of Bog Turtles, found in some New England and mid-Atlantic states.
  • Under the Young-Pombo bill, nearly 1,000 endangered and threatened species currently protected by the Act and found in the U.S. would lose virtually all federal protections. Among these species are the grizzly bear, the eastern cougar, the Louisiana black bear, the black-footed ferret, two species of jaguarundi, the manatee, the southern sea otter, the Florida panther, the whooping crane, the American peregrine falcon, the California condor, 7 species of sea turtles, 4 runs of salmon and 6 species of trout.

Selling National Treasures

There are few uses of taxpayer dollars that enjoy such enthusiastic and heartfelt support as America's national parks, recreation areas, seashores, and monuments. They are a treasure unparalleled, visited each year by 260 million people.

Yet in 1995, leaders in Congress attempted to pass legislation designed in the main to close or sell hundreds of prized pieces of the national park system. In fact, H.R. 260, the so-called National Park System Reform Act, introduced by Representative Hefley of Colorado, was the first substantive piece of legislation considered by the House Committee on Resources in the 104th Congress.

Although H.R. 260 did not target the flagship parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite, many revered and historic monuments, national seashores, recreation areas, and national battlefields were targeted for closure or privatization by H.R. 260.

How it Hurts America

H.R. 260 would threaten to close or sell off hundreds of national treasures, including:

  • The Statue of Liberty
  • The birthplaces of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.
  • Historic sites dedicated to Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Wright Brothers
  • The Jefferson Memorial and The Washington Monument
  • The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial
  • Mount Rushmore
  • The Cape Cod, Cape Hatteras, Fire Island, Padre Island and Point Reyes National Seashores
  • The Glen Canyon and Golden Gate National Recreation Areas
  • The Gettysburg, Antietam and Vicksburg Battlefields

Toxic Dumps

The 104th Congress has been aggressively attacking the Superfund law, which governs the cleanup of toxic waste dumps across the country. Representative Michael Oxley (R-OH) and Senator Robert Smith (R-NH) have introduced bills that would bail out polluters and severely slow down cleanup of toxic dumps.

Current law strongly encourages permanent cleanup of all toxic dump sites. Both the House and Senate bills reverse this policy, preferring cheaper controls such as fencing off dump sites instead of removing toxic materials.

The House and Senate bills would also allow polluters to challenge hundreds of cleanup plans that are already in place, requiring EPA to spend taxpayer money on litigation instead of pollution cleanup. And both bills artificially cap the number of sites that can be added to the Superfund program at 125, leaving hundreds of additional sites that would ultimately be cleaned up at taxpayer expense or not cleaned up at all.

The most recent draft of the bill released by Senate leaders would shift an estimated $1 billion a year in clean-up costs from polluters to the program, by effectively repealing polluter responsibility for much of the toxic wastes disposed of prior to 1980. The most recent draft of the bill released by House Republicans would abolish all liability for polluters who generated and transported waste prior to 1987. Even giant corporations would get off the hook for all toxic wastes they sent off-site prior to 1987.

How it Hurts the Nation

Limiting the Superfund program would delay, forego, or shift the costs of clean-up to taxpayers for many of the important National Priority List (NPL) sites nationwide.

Toxic waste sites are placed on the National Priority List after EPA has made an assessment of the relative environmental threats posed on-site, as well as environmental and human health threats posed by contamination of groundwater, surface water and air. Currently there are almost 1,300 NPL toxic waste sites nationwide identified by the EPA. Five states--New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, New York and Michigan--account for over one-third of the toxic waste sites on this EPA list. Sites where improperly disposed toxic materials now require extensive and expensive cleanup and monitoring include:

  • The U.S. Radium Corporation site, in the city of Orange, NJ. The 2-acre site is a former processing facility for radioactive radium ore. The soil contains radium-226, which decays to radon gas and radioactive products which can concentrate in basements and other ground-level enclosed spaces. In 1993, EPA proposed to excavate and dispose of radium-contaminated material in 110 to 120 residential and commercial properties around the site. This cleanup is scheduled for completion in 1998.
  • Hudson River PCBs site, a 40-mile stretch between Fort Edward and Troy in upstate New York at the headwaters of the Hudson River. General Electric discharged approximately 1 million pounds of PCBs into the river from two capacitor manufacturing plants. This contamination potentially impacts the entire 200 miles of the Hudson , all the way to New York City. The state has banned fishing on the Upper Hudson and commercial fishing of striped bass in the Lower Hudson. The Hudson is used to supplement New York City's water supply in times of drought.
  • The Palmerton Zinc Pile in Carbon County, PA. The site covers more than 2,000 acres and was used formerly by a zinc smelter. Thirty-two million tons of residue were dumped at the site before 1980, creating a cinder bank that extends for 2.5 miles and measures about 200 feet high and 500 to 1,000 feet wide. The air near the site is contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and zinc, and Aquashicola Creek is contaminated with heavy metal runoff. Contaminants have been found in soil and garden vegetables; children in Palmerton have been found to have elevated levels of cadmium and lead in their blood.
  • Montrose Chemical Corporation plant in Los Angeles County where DDT was manufactured for thirty five years until 1982. Various former storage and processing areas of the 13 acre site are now heavily contaminated. Soil in the backyards of nearby homes was found to contain "bowling ball-sized chunks" of pure DDT, apparently dumped there as fill before the homes were built. Three thousand people live and work within 1/4 mile of the waste site. Four interconnected aquifers under the site are contaminated. Former drinking water wells have been shut down. Contamination from yet another Superfund site, adjacent to Montrose, has also been detected in the groundwater.
  • Bofors Nobel, Inc. in Muskegon, MI where on-site lagoons have been used for disposal of sludge, wastewater and wastes containing methylene chloride and benzene since the 1960's. In the mid-1970's groundwater under the site was found to be contaminated and purge wells were installed to intercept contaminated groundwater before it reached a nearby creek. Approximately 6,400 people obtain drinking water from private wells within 3 miles of the site.

Toxic Secrets

Many members of the 104th Congress think the less you know about toxic substances released in your community, the better. S. 343, the so-called Regulatory Reform Act, contains provisions that would effectively eliminate the public's right to know about toxic pollution from factories. The provisions would:

  • Curtail reporting requirements for up to 90 percent of toxic chemical emissions that factories must report to the EPA under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI),
  • Eliminate reporting requirements for many toxins presently on the TRI list,
  • Bar the EPA from adding TRI reporting requirements for additional toxic chemicals.

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), established in 1986, requires public disclosure of some releases of some toxic chemicals by some manufacturing facilities in the United States. Despite its limited scope, the TRI has achieved far more pollution reduction per dollar spent than any other environmental law.

In 1993, American industry reported dumping 2.7 billion pounds of toxic chemicals into the environment. Before the 104th Congress abolished it, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment concluded that ninety-five percent of all toxic chemical releases to the environment are unaccounted for by the TRI.

Nonetheless, in 1995, the new leadership in the Congress tried several times to dismantle the TRI, and so with it, the public's right to know about toxic chemical releases in communities across the country.

How it Hurts the Nation

Industry releases huge amounts of toxic chemicals into the environment nationwide. If Congress cripples TRI reporting requirements, Americans will know even less about toxic releases in their communities.

  • In 1993, U.S. industry reported over 2.7 billion pounds of toxic chemical releases to the environment.
  • Cancer causing chemicals accounted for 199 million pounds of all reported toxic chemical releases in the same year.
  • Four states--Lousiana, Texas, Tennessee and Ohio--accounted for 40 percent of the total toxics emissions reported by industry under TRI nationwide in 1993.
  • Fifteen states had reported emissions of over 5 million pounds of carcinogenic chemicals in 1993.