EPA wants polluters to do more ... polluting

Considering how badly the Gulf Coast has been affected by all the toxics released by Katrina, and considering how many more are likely to be unleashed (sub. required) by Rita, does it seem like a good time for our EPA to propose loosening emissions standards?

The AP's John Heilprin writes that, in the interest of "easing the regulatory burden" on corporations,

the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday proposed adopting a "short form" that would excuse companies from disclosing spills and other releases of toxic substances if:
  • They claim to release fewer than 5,000 pounds of a specific chemical. The current limit is 500 pounds.
  • They store onsite but claim to release "zero" amounts of the worst pollutants, such as mercury, DDT and PCBs, that persist in the environment and work up the food chain. However, they must report if they have stored dioxin or dioxin-like compounds, even if none is released.
EPA said it also plans to ask Congress for permission to require the accounting every other year instead of annually.
Just to be perfectly clear here, the EPA is proposing a 900 percent increase in the amount of toxics that can be released before the public needs to know. It is also proposing to cut back how often polluters have to tell the public about any spills, even though, as EPA spokesperson Kimberly Nelson said, "Every community will still have the same information about the types of toxic releases. They just won't have some of the details in terms of how that particular substance was managed or released."

The reason for this drastic and devastating change? Paperwork. It seems that too much time is being spent on reporting all these spills, to the effect that Nelson estimates the changes "would save businesses about 165,000 hours a year in paperwork. If Congress agrees to require the reports every two years instead of annually, that would save another 2 million hours."

Clearly, spending too much time on reporting these spills will take away from the time that companies can spend causing the spills.

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