EPA seeks to reduce TRI reporting burden

Nov. 27, 2005
The EPA has proposed a new act in regards to reducing Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Read here to get the details on how it might affect your plant.

Reducing Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), Section 313, was proposed October 4 by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA). Following is an explanation of the proposal and the rationale behind it.

EPCRA requires facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use specified chemicals in amounts above a reporting threshold to submit to EPA and state officials. These reports must be submitted annually by July 1 for the previous calendar year, and take much time and energy to prepare. Other information, such as recycling, also must be reported under the EPCRA and the Pollution Prevention Act, Section 6607. These reports are compiled and stored in the EPA’s TRI.

Generally, reports are required from facilities that:

• Have 10 or more full-time employee equivalents (i.e., 20,000 hours worked per year or greater; see 40 C.F.R. § 372.3);
• Are included in Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Codes 10 (except 1011, 1081, and 1094), 12 (except 1241), 20-39, 4911, 4931, and 4939 (all limited to facilities that combust coal and/or oil for generating electricity for distribution in commerce); 4953 (limited to facilities regulated under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C, 42 U.S.C. § 6921, et seq.), 5169, 5171, and 7389 (limited to facilities primarily engaged in solvents recovery services on a contract or fee basis), or under Executive Order 13148, federal facilities regardless of their SIC code; and
• Manufacture (including import), process, or otherwise use any EPCRA Section 313 chemical in quantities greater than established thresholds for the specific chemical annually.

Reducing burdens
EPA has long strived to minimize reporting burdens, particularly for small businesses. EPA held a TRI Stakeholder Dialogue in 2002 to get ideas to reduce the burden. Options, including the proposal to expand the Form A Certification Statement eligibility in lieu of submitting a Form R, resulted.

Form A may be used in lieu of Form R for chemicals other than those of special concern (e.g., persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals) if the facility does not exceed the 1 million pound amount threshold for chemicals manufactured, processed, or otherwise used in the reporting year and if the annual reportable amount (ARA) is 500 pounds or less. The ARA is the total of all quantities released (on- and off-site, but excluding catastrophic events), treated, recovered, recycled, and combusted, plus all amounts transferred off-site for recycling, energy recovery, treatment, and/or disposal. If the criterion is met, only the chemical’s name and facility identification information must be reported. In this case, Form A is a range report to tell the public that the total production related waste for that chemical is between zero and 500 pounds. Several chemicals can be reported on each form.

Form A eligibility would increase for non-PBT chemicals by raising a chemical’s ARA eligibility threshold to 5,000 pounds. It also would allow limited use of Form A for PBT chemicals where total releases are zero and the PBT ARA is under 500 pounds. Dioxin and dioxin-like compounds are excluded.

In a companion notice issued the same day, EPA suggested reducing the TRI 70 Fed. Reg. 5781 reporting frequency. One option is alternate year reporting, requiring Congressional notification, which the reporting community would likely enthusiastically receive.

To further EPA’s desire to diminish reporting burdens without sacrificing the public’s right to know, the proposal, if implemented, reduces reporting obligations. Approximately 2,703 PBT forms would qualify for Form A, saving 47,000 hours of reporting burden, the EPA estimates. This provides an incentive to TRI facilities to eliminate releases and reduce other waste management activities to 500 pounds or less by allowing certification in lieu of reporting, according to EPA. The agency expects that the option will have negligible impacts on TRI data users.

EPA seeks comment on a range of issues in the October 4 Federal Register notice. 70 Fed. Reg. 57822. Readers interested in these new reporting options respond to the request for comment and support the proposal. Adverse comment from constituencies who disfavor diminished reporting, believing that such reporting is inconsistent with the public’s right to know and discourages diminished chemical usage can be expected.

By Lynn Bergeson, regulatory editor. She is managing director of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C., a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that concentrates on chemical industry issues. Contact here at [email protected]. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author. This column is not intended to provide, nor should be construed as, legal advice.

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