U.S. mulls removing lead from list of pollutants
By Timothy Gardner
NEW YORK – U.S. environmental regulators are considering removing lead, a heavy metal linked to learning problems in children, from a list of regulated pollutants because past rules have greatly reduced levels of the toxin.
An Environmental Protection Agency staff paper released on Tuesday said the agency would evaluate the status of lead as an air pollutant and “assess whether the revocation of the standard is an appropriate option for the Administrator to consider.”
The EPA said that from 1980 to 2005 the national annual lead concentrations have dropped more than 90 percent.
Lead levels in air have mostly fallen because it was banned as a gasoline additive starting in the 1970s. Auto makers had asked for the ban because it damaged catalytic converters.
Criteria pollutants on the National Ambient Air Quality list are reviewed every five years under the Clean Air Act.
Now one of the leading emitters of lead pollution is the battery industry.
An environmentalist said the EPA was pressured to review the status of lead as a pollutant by industry.
“The EPA would be cutting a big sweetheart deal for the lead smelter industry if they revoked the listing,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Clean Air Watch.
He said the lead assessment was an example of the EPA subordinating the expertise of agency scientists.
EPA officials could not be immediately reached.
In a letter last July to the EPA, industry group the Battery Council International urged the agency to “delete lead from the criteria pollutants.”
A U.S. lawmaker also derided the EPA for considering the revocation of the lead listing.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said: “I am writing to urge you to renounce this dangerous proposal immediately. At a time when the public health impacts of environmental pollution are becoming better understood and our reason for concern grows, this announcement by EPA is particularly misdirected.”
EPA expects to release potential policy options on lead for the agency’s administrator to consider next summer.
Lead pollution is said to have already in antiquity brought down the Roman empire.
US military pollution in Puerto Rico: here.
(more Bush friends) EPA Action Allows Companies to Withhold
Posted by: “Corey” firstname.lastname@example.org cpmondello
Tue Dec 19, 2006 11:44 am (PST)
EPA Action Allows Companies to Withhold Information on Toxic Chemicals
DECEMBER 18, 2006
WASHINGTON – December 18 – For the first time ever, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized two rollbacks to the nation’s premier toxic pollution disclosure program, the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). The changes announced today enable facilities to withhold currently reported information about toxic chemicals and restricts public access to information about toxic pollution.
“EPA’s actions take us back to the dark ages when the public knew nothing about toxic releases and when companies couldn’t be held accountable for pollution that threatened public health,” said U.S. PIRG staff attorney Alex Fidis. “EPA is substituting a don’t ask, don’t tell policy for a program that works to protect public health and the environment.”
The TRI is one of the most successful federal environmental programs, and has been praised by environmental organizations, industry, and state and local governments. While the TRI requires companies only to publicly disclose toxic chemical use and pollution, EPA credits the program with contributing to a 40 percent reduction in toxic pollution over an 18-year period. In addition to encouraging voluntary toxic reductions, the TRI provides valuable data that is used by the public, firefighters and emergency responders, investors, researchers, and state and local governments.
EPA’s first change to the TRI will limit the amount of data disclosed by authorizing companies to use or release four to ten times more toxic chemicals before they are required to submit a report. The second part of the rule enables companies to withhold information about the use and production of dangerous persistent bioaccumulative toxics. EPA had also planned to change the frequency of submission of reports from once a year to once every two years, but abandoned this proposal in response to intense opposition.
The final rule announced today is opposed by public health and environmental organizations, governmental agencies in 23 states, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and more than 122,000 individual public commentors. In May 2005, the House of Representatives voted to block EPA from implementing the TRI rollbacks, but the Senate was unable to consider a similar measure before EPA finalized the changes.
“The fundamental purpose of TRI is to inform the public about toxic pollution and to drive voluntary toxic reductions that protect public health by putting polluting companies under a public microscope,” said Fidis. “Restricting public access to toxic data undermines the purpose and effectiveness of TRI and is contrary to the best interests of the public.”
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