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Toxic Releases Up, No One Agrees Why

I knew things were busier in my practice, and now I may know why.

Releases of toxic materials ticked up five percent last year, for only the second time in two decades, the last increase being in 1997. Some lawyers would be as happy as a mortician in a war. I, on the other hand, am disappointed because releases in 2002 were down thirteen percent. Think about it. All told, in 2002, some 4.79 billion pounds of toxic materials were released. And that was likely the tip of the iceberg. That's the reported amount - not the amount we never hear about.

An environmental group, GHASP, claims the USEPA under-reported toxic releases by over 330 million pounds.

An industry group, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association has this to say: GHASP's conclusions as misleading, because other USEPA data shows some decreases in nationwide air toxics emissions. The NPRA said the refining industry helped lower pollution through improved technology and management and cleaner gasoline, and pointed to this USEPA air quality report that shows a 31 percent decrease in releases.

But it's not just air, and it's not just one set of chemicals. The USEPA blamed the "extraordinarily large change" on the 1999 shutdown of BHP Copper Company's San Manuel plant in Tucson, Ariz., where 2,000 people worked. Dismantling a plant turns components and product into waste, apparently that got released. By a lot.

"If we were to take that one facility out we would see a 3 percent decrease," said Kimberly Terese Nelson, the USEPA's chief information officer.

The USEPA tracks releases of 650 chemicals at 24,379 facilities. Last year, 25,388 facilities reported their findings, perhaps contributing to the five percent increase, too.

Not necessarily good news.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, June 24, 2004 at 10:28 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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