The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rushed to make cutbacks on the requirements for companies to disclose their release of toxins annually. The EPA expedited these cutbacks after being pressured by the White House Office of Monetary Budget to meet their commitment to reduce the amount of paperwork to industries by 2006. With these changes, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has stated industry will file 22,000 fewer reports annually, a twenty five percent decline, which will lead to the public losing their powerful monitoring tool due to not having enough information about industry emissions. With the new requirements, more than 3,500 facilities will no longer have to disclose detailed information about their emitted chemicals.
Under the changes, companies are allowed to make shorter, less detailed reports if they used less than 5,000 pounds of toxic chemicals or emitted less than 2,000 pounds of toxic chemicals. In the past, industries have had to divulge to the EPA, for as little as 500 pounds, the amount of toxic chemicals they produce, store, and emit into the air, water, and ground. This information has then been made public for use by watchdog organizations and local neighborhoods. With the new reporting requirement, however, the public will not necessarily know the exact amount of pollution in their communities. The EPA has stated these reporting changes would save industries and businesses nationwide six million dollars annually. The GAO, on the other hand, has said these estimated savings are based on outdated information from the Office of Management and Budget.
This is yet another example of certain elements of our government, like the current administration, taking an opportunity to help out corporate America by eliminating oversight and checks and balances. When power is taken away from people, and information is not made available to the people, for the benefit of corporate interests, innocent citizens may often suffer.