Much Toxic Ado About Nothing

Today, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) reportedly will introduce the Toxic Right-to-Know Protection Act, which would reverse recent EPA reforms to the Toxics Release Inventory. The program mandates that industry report “chemical releases” to the EPA and to the public. These lawmakers seem to believe that the EPA changes deprive the public of useful information.

In reality, the program changes are simply about paperwork reduction, allowing a limited number of companies to use a shorter reporting form. Many of these companies’ “releases” are close to zero and none of them have any measurable impact on public health. Some of them don’t really constitute anything resembling a release. For example, the law counts the red paint used on ceramics as “a release into the environment.” Nancy Klinefelter, the owner of a ceramic decorating business with 15 employees, is one of the likely beneficiaries of the paperwork reductions. She reported to Congress a while back why such reforms were necessary. Under the program, she has been required to report supposed “lead releases” — the amount of lead in the paint that her company uses to decorate ceramics. She has to track how much lead paint her company uses on a daily basis — including how much of each color of paint because each color contains a different level of lead. Then she must calculate how much lead was contained in those paints. Ms. Klinefelter noted: I have personally spent 95 hours trying to understand the TRI forms and requirements…and I am still nowhere near the point where I can complete the forms with confidence…We are now spending about 4 to 5 hours per week tracking lead usage to enable us to have confidence in our 2002 TRI filing.Reforming the program to reduce the burden of meeting such silly reporting mandates only makes sense — no matter what any green politician or environmental activist might say. In the final analysis, the entire program accomplishes very little (see pages 179-182 of this document), and should be scrapped altogether .