DENVER—Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data released by EPA this week not only shows that reported toxic pollution increased by five percent for the second time since the TRI program began in 1987, but also that industry reported releasing and disposing of more than a billion pounds of cancer-causing chemicals into America’s air, land and water in 2002, according to an analysis by Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center.
“EPA programs like the Toxics Release Inventory have helped raise public awareness of the amount of toxic chemicals released into our environment annually,” said Mark Detsky, energy attorney for Environment Colorado.
According to the TRI analysis, electric utilities released 90,371 pounds of mercury to the air in 2002, a negligible decrease from 2001. Coal-fired power plants are by far the largest source of airborne toxic mercury pollution, contributing two-thirds of the total airborne mercury emitted from all reported sources in 2002. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that, when ingested, can cause serious neurological damage, particularly to developing fetuses, infants, and children. Power plants in Colorado released over 355 pounds of mercury to the air in 2002.
Xcel energy has proposed building a new coal-fired power plant in Pueblo, where two coal plants currently violating EPA air pollution standards already exist.
In January 2004, EPA proposed to curtail efforts to clean up mercury emissions from the nation’s 1,100 coal-fired power plants. EPA’s proposal would have delayed even small reductions in mercury pollution from power plants until 2018, at the earliest, which would allow six to seven times more mercury into the air than the reduction required by the Clean Air Act.
“We have the technology today to drastically reduce power plant mercury pollution, but unfortunately the Bush administration wishes to let utility companies dictate decisions affecting our children’s health,” said Detsky.
On Thursday, 184 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, with bi-partisan support including 23 Republicans, sent EPA Administrator Leavitt a letter criticizing “EPA’s continuing failure to take into account both its own analyses and the potential presented by existing technology.” The letter calls on Leavitt to issue a new mercury pollution proposal that protects public health and complies with the Clean Air Act.
Environment Colorado also released TRI reports’ of chemical emissions and waste identified to be known carcinogens, reproductive toxicants or developmental toxicants. Analyzing EPA data, the results for Colorado revealed:
– In 2002, industry reported releasing and disposing of more than a billion pounds of chemicals classified as carcinogens. Facilities in Colorado reported releasing 6.2 million pounds of carcinogens, ranking the state 24th in the country.
– In 2002, industry reported releasing and disposing of more than 966 million pounds of chemicals classified as developmental toxicants. Facilities in Colorado reported releasing over 5.8 million pounds of developmental toxicants, ranking the state 18th in the country. Developmental toxicants are chemicals that can impede the proper physical and mental development of young children.
– In 2002, industry reported releasing and disposing of more than 486 million pounds of chemicals classified as reproductive toxicants. Facilities in Colorado reported releasing 5.6 million pounds of reproductive toxicants, ranking the state 13th in the country. Reproductive toxicants are chemicals with the potential to impair the male or female reproductive system, leading to sterility, spontaneous abortion or stillbirth.
Environment Colorado called on the Bush administration to reconsider its mercury proposal in favor of one requiring a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2008. To that end, Environment Colorado also called on the EPA to reject proposals that seek to limit data collected under the Toxics Release Inventory. Presented as “burden reduction” measures for industry, some EPA’s proposals could weaken public access to data about toxic chemicals released into the environment.
“The public has a right to know about toxic chemicals released into and over their backyards,” stated Detsky. “The TRI program is successful because people depend on this right to information, in order to make their own decisions on what is best for their community.”