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Highlights

GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) progress in implementing the Toxics Release Inventory Program. GAO noted that: (1) federal and state agencies, and various nongovernmental groups extensively used inventory data to enact laws designed to control and reduce toxic emissions; (2) EPA and industry used the inventory to jointly develop pollution prevention strategies for 17 chemicals believed to be environmental and health hazards; (3) public availability of such data prompted some companies to set emissions reduction goals; (4) the inventory would be more useful to regulators and the public if it included more comprehensive information; (5) the data did not include toxic information from thousands of nonmanufacturers that were not required to report their releases, and from at least 10,000 facilities required to report their releases; (6) EPA has penalized few nonreporters due to backlogs in the enforcement process and other problems; (7) EPA had limited knowledge of the data's quality, therefore limiting its reliability; (8) EPA, states, and manufacturers reported few data requests from individual citizens; (9) more than half of the residents polled in three counties with high emissions levels wanted more information about the pollution in their communities, but were unaware that such data were available; and (10) EPA efforts to publicize the inventory have been limited due to other program priorities.

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