EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson states in a press release today: “People have a right to information that might affect their health and the health of their children–and EPA has a responsibility to provide it.” How does she plan to do that? EPA is imposing more paperwork and red tape–or in this case what might better be called “green tape”–on America’s small businesses by reversing a Bush Administration rule that attempted to reduce meaningless paper work mandates. Supposedly, if companies report more about inconsequential use and “release” of chemicals from their manufacturing processes we can all sleep better at night–or maybe not.
At issue is the Toxics Release Inventory a government reporting program on legally “released” chemicals in the environment. The trace level chemicals at issue have no measurable impact on public health. As a result, what EPA publishes is not really information since it does not tell us anything about risk levels. It’s merely confusing data that makes tiny risks look scary. In fact, EPA already regulates chemical use and releases under myriad laws to ensure levels are safe. And these laws are very stringent, usually far more than necessary.
TRI reports are much more akin to a political device that consumers, by and large, never read. They are tools of environmental activists, who want to hype risks, scare the public, and push for more and more regulations. TRI hits small companies the hardest, imposing often nonsensical requirements. For example, ceramics makers report trace levels of lead that is intact in the paint used on vases and the like. Public health impact? None. Bureaucratic headache and financial cost? Real. For more info on the Toxics Release Inventory, see our brief on the topic.