[JURIST] The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] was pressured by the White House to lower disclosure requirements [EPA Toxic Release Inventory materials] for companies storing or emitting 500 or more pounds of toxins, the Government Accountability Office [official website] said in a report [PDF text; summary] released Wednesday. The White House Office of Management and Budget [official website] pushed for the lighter reporting requirements to reduce the paperwork burden on industry. As a result of the new regulations, more than 3,500 facilities will no longer be required to file detailed Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reports. In all, the GAO estimated that 22,000 fewer TRI reports will be available to environmental activists, industry watchdog groups, and the general public. The GAO also said that the EPA overestimated the amount of money that industries could be expected to save under the new requirements. AP has more.
The new EPA regulations require detailed disclosure only whenever companies store or release 5,000 pounds of toxins, while allowing companies to file an abbreviated form when they store or release between 500 and 4,999 pounds of toxins. The old Toxic Release Inventory law, established under the 1986 Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act [text], required detailed disclosure from any company dealing with 500 or more pounds of toxic materials, and was signed by President Ronald Reagan after the 1984 Union Carbide chemical disaster in Bhopal, India [Wikipedia backgrounder] caused the deaths of between 2,500 and 5,000 people. The EPA announced last year that it would push for the relaxed reporting requirements [JURIST report] after it abandoned plans to move reporting from an annual basis to every two years. In November, twelve states filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] against the EPA, seeking to invalidate the new regulations.