Stricter guidelines for US toxic pollution reporting

"People have a right to the information that might affect their health and the health of their children."

The US government will once again require companies to fully disclose the toxic chemicals they release into the air, onto land and into water. The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it was reversing a decision by the Bush administration in 2006 that reduced reporting of toxic pollution for more than 3,500 facilities nationwide. The Bush rules allowed facilities storing or releasing smaller amounts of toxic chemicals to submit less-detailed information to the government. More than a dozen states had sued the agency over the change saying it reduced the information available to the public about chemical hazards in communities. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Tuesday that the annual database - known as the Toxics Release Inventory - was a crucial tool for safeguarding public health and the environment. For more than two decades, the inventory has collected information on the release of hundreds of hazardous chemicals from thousands of facilities nationwide. "People have a right to the information that might affect their health and the health of their children - and EPA has a responsibility to provide it," Jackson said in a statement. In December 2006, to reduce the burden on industry, the Bush administration allowed companies using less than 5,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, or releasing less than 2,000 pounds, to submit shorter, less-detailed reports. Previously, more detailed information had to be provided in longer forms if there was as little as 500 pounds, a threshold that the Bush rule maintained only for some of the most dangerous chemicals. Congressional auditors said the change would have cut by a quarter the number of emissions reports the government receives each year. The EPA was required to reverse the rule by a spending bill signed into law in March. It will apply to reports due July 1 covering emissions during 2008.