A plan to streamline the way the nation's biggest polluters report releases of toxic chemicals would reduce the information available on Augusta industries, according to Georgia's Public Interest Research Group.
"The Bush administration's proposal puts polluters first and communities last," said Jill Johnson, an environmental advocate for Georgia Public Interest Reasearch Groups, which is lobbying against the proposal.
In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed several changes in the way the Toxic Release Inventory- an annual national directory of chemical releases - is compiled. The proposed changes include a provision to allow some major polluters to report emissions every other year instead of annually.
Such a change, Ms. Johnson said, could allow industries to hide pollution by increasing releases in non-reporting years and reducing them in years for which they must disclose emissions.
Currently, about 25 Richmond County industries must file TRI reports, but the proposed changes, which would raise the reporting threshold from 500 pounds to 5,000 pounds for some chemicals, could mean the public will have less opportunity to learn of emissions in their community, she said.
The EPA, however, views the proposed changes as means to ease unnecessary paperwork and effort on the part of many industries.
"Since TRI began in 1986, EPA has learned a great deal about the power that public information has to influence corporate behavior and empower communities, and we also have found new ways to use technology to reduce costs for everyone involved, improve data quality and speed the release of the information collected," spokeswoman Kimberly T. Nelson said in a news release.
The proposal, if adopted, is expected to save about 165,000 hours a year and provide shorter forms for industries with fewer emissions - a step EPA officials believe will provide further incentive for industries to reduce their releases.
Ms. Johnson's group believes the TRI reporting requirements should be strengthened, not weakened.
For almost 20 years, EPA's Toxics Release Inventory has shown that the amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment by reporting facilities continues to decline.
In this year's report, nearly 24,000 facilities reported on approximately 650 chemicals, including toxics managed in landfills and underground injection wells and those released into water and the air.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or email@example.com.
Emissions near you
Columbia County emitters and the top 10 Richmond County emitters and 2003 releases (in pounds):
1. Quebecor World 994, 682
2. Greenfield Industries 37,916
3. Pollard Lumber 1,500
1. PCS Nitrogen Fertilizer 3,965,426
2. DSM Chemicals 3,467,802
3. International Paper 2,666,801
4. Boral Bricks Plants 3,4,5 402,919
5. Boral Bricks Plant 6 190,839
6. NutraSweet 65,081
7. Solvay Advanced Polymers 42,148
8. AC IND 35,434
9. GD Searle 18,122
10. Modern Welding 15,445
Source: Toxic Release Inventory