Thursday, January 26, 2006


Terrorists have the Right to Know too, I guess

How valuable is a program that provides information on the amounts of toxic chemicals available at industrial facilities across the country to Americans? Accoding to environmentalists, the program is wildly important. And so a flood of urgent emails predicting doom and gloom regarding EPA's recent proposal to alter it's Toxics Release Inventory program was released. "Don't Let EPA Sell Off Your Right to Know about Toxic Pollution" a main article on OMBWatch warns. I can hear the terrorists cheering already.

Aside from being a poor indicator of environmental risk, the TRI program easily provides blueprints for terrorists. Still, the greens argue that the program is invaluable. They fail to mention that the way in which chemical releases are measured are terribly misleading. Currently, companies must report the amounts of chemicals they ship from one place to another and even to landfills as toxic "releases." At the same time the information provided only refers to the amount of pounds of chemicals that are "released" without regard for how dangerous the chemicals are. If the right to know is so important for Americans, perhaps an assesment of environmental risk might better serve this end.

But let's talk about who the program really hurts: small businesses that lack the funds to hire regulatory lawyers and experts to help them fill out endless forms. Currently, a small automotive repair shop must fill out the same amount of paperwork as a huge oil refinery. EPA's proposal would reduce this burden by allowing companies who emit less to use a shortened reporting form. It would also decrease the regulatory burden by requiring reporting every other year instead of annually. This would be a huge relief to smaller businesses who are overburdened by such regulations but would keep the program's supposed benefits intact.

For a concise brief on EPA's proposal as well as recommended action items and links to more information, see the Heritage Foundation's Regulation-in-Brief on this topic.

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