Toxic Substances:

Status of EPA's Efforts to Reduce Toxic Releases

RCED-94-207: Published: Sep 22, 1994. Publicly Released: Oct 25, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to reduce toxic releases, focusing on the: (1) validity of the data reported in the Toxic Release Inventory; (2) progress of the 33/50 Program in meeting its targets for reductions in toxic releases; and (3) status of participation in the Early Reductions Program.

GAO found that: (1) while the EPA Toxic Release Inventory shows that the volume of toxic substances released into the environment has been reduced by 1.7 billion pounds since 1988, it is difficult to determine whether these reductions are valid and permanent; (2) according to EPA data, the 33/50 Program has exceeded its interim target, having achieved a 40-percent reduction in toxic chemical releases and transfers, and EPA officials expect to realize a reduction of more than 50 percent by 1995; (3) not all of the reductions in toxic chemical releases could be attributed to the 33/50 Program, since 26 percent of the reductions were reported by companies not participating in the program, and 40 percent of the reductions took place before the program was established; (4) as of September 1994, EPA was reviewing and processing 40 applications for the Early Reductions Program; and (5) industry representatives believe that participation in the Early Reductions Program has been limited because participants are given insufficient time to comply with the emission standards in view of the costs and complex requirements of the program.

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