State News:

Md. Attorney General Joins Other State AGs in Backing Public's Right to Know About Toxic Chemicals

SOURCE: Office of the Attorney General, State of Maryland
The EPA is proposing regulations that would sharply reduce the amount of information available to the public about toxic chemicals released by industry in communities across the nation.
Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran joined other state Attorneys General on Jan. 13 to call on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw proposed regulations that would sharply reduce the amount of information available to the public about toxic chemicals released by industry in communities across the nation. The Attorneys General submitted detailed written comments challenging the legality of proposed EPA regulations that would scale back the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

"The Toxics Release Inventory puts chemical release information in the hands of the public and allows communities to engage in an educated dialogue with their industrial neighbors, and this kind of communication is beneficial to us all," said Curran in a prepared statement to the press.

After the 1984 deadly release of toxic chemicals at the Union Carbide facility in Bhopal, India, Congress responded by establishing the Toxics Release Inventory. TRI is a federal computerized database that provides information on the type and quantity of toxic chemicals released into the air, water and soil. The bill was signed into law by President Reagan and data has been collected and made available to the public since 1987. Industrial facilities are required to report information to the EPA annually, which is then compiled into a public report.

Disclosure of public information about toxic releases has brought about significant reductions in the release of toxic chemicals across the nation. For example, the Boeing Company reduced its toxic chemical releases by more than 82 percent since 1991; Monsanto reduced its toxic air emissions by more than 90 percent between 1988 and 1992. The Eastman Chemical Company of Tennessee has reduced its releases of TRI chemicals by 83 percent since 1988.

The EPA, however, is now proposing changes that would, according to the state attorneys general, significantly weaken the TRI in the following ways:

The Attorneys General believe that such changes would significantly reduce the amount of toxic chemical release information available to the public. Densely populated neighborhoods are especially at risk. A community in western New York, Tonawanda, is an example of the possible effects of these changes. In one Tonawanda neighborhood with 45,000 people, environmental releases of 8,100 pounds of neurotoxic chemicals, 3,100 pounds of chemicals that may cause respiratory problems, 2,300 pounds of chemicals that cause developmental problems and 650 pounds of chemicals that may cause blood disorders could go unreported under the proposed weaker EPA regulation.
Other participating attorneys general who are joining in the protest to the EPA are: New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Iowa Attorney General Thomas J. Miller, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte, New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia A. Madrid, Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell, Wisconsin Attorney General Peggy A. Lautenschlager.

For more information, visit the Maryland Attorney General's website.

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This story was published on January 20, 2006.