Environmental Information: EPA Actions Could Reduce the Availability of Environmental Information to the Public

GAO-07-464T Published: Feb 06, 2007. Publicly Released: Feb 06, 2007.
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U.S. industry uses billions of pounds of chemicals to produce the nation's goods and services. Releases of these chemicals during use or disposal can harm human health and the environment. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 requires facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use more than specified amounts of nearly 650 toxic chemicals to report their releases to water, air, and land. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes this data available to the public in the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Since 1995, facilities may submit a brief certification statement (Form A), in lieu of the detailed Form R report, if their releases of specific chemicals do not exceed 500 pounds a year. In January 2007, EPA finalized a proposal to increase that threshold to 2,000 pounds, quadrupling what facilities can release before they must disclose their releases and other waste management practices. Today's testimony addresses (1) EPA's development of the proposal to change the TRI Form A threshold from 500 to 2,000 pounds and (2) the impact these changes may have on data available to the public. It also provides an update to our 2005 report recommendations on perchlorate. GAO's preliminary observations on TRI are based on ongoing work performed from June 2006 through January 2007.

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