Getting tough on toxic chemicals

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In December 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency changed the rules that require companies to publicly disclose information on toxic chemical emissions from their facilities, essentially easing the requirements so that fewer companies had to report the data. Rep. Frank Moe (DFL-Bemidji) sponsors a bill that would put Minnesota back on the old rules.

HF3685 would roll back the federal rule change, which allows polluters who work with 10 times the amount of toxic substances previously allowed to emit toxins into the environment without having to disclose the amounts they emit or where the emissions go. The bill is headed for the House floor, after being approved March 11 by the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

“This is an example of a bill that was brought to me by the Pollution Control Agency because they’re trying to do the right thing,” Moe said, adding that the EPA’s ruling essentially made it easier for companies to pollute.

Before December 2006, companies that managed quantities of chemicals listed on the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory were required to report details on any toxic emissions if they managed more than 500 pounds of toxic chemicals. Since the rule change was implemented, only companies managing more than 5,000 pounds of the chemicals are required to report those details.

The previous reporting requirements had been in place since 1990. Minnesota has joined 11 other states in filing a lawsuit against the EPA to restore the previous requirements.

If enacted, the bill would be retroactive from Jan. 1, 2007, to ensure that no data gaps exist from previous TRI reporting.

A companion, SF3580, sponsored by Sen. Satveer Chaudhary (DFL-Fridley), awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

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