Quicksilver questions


The subject of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and cement plants has always been fraught with uncertainties (HCN, 1/18/10). Industry influence at the congressional level often got transferred down as pressure on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Stephen Johnson, Bush's administrator of the EPA, and his deputy, Marcus Peacock, seemed intent on reducing EPA's effectiveness in this area. With Deputy Peacock leading the attack, the Bush administration moved to emasculate the Toxics Release Inventory Program, which annually collects industry releases of toxic chemicals like mercury from various types of manufacturing plants. (The Obama administration and a new administrator at the EPA are reversing this.)

Actually, the cement and power plants themselves are responsible for calculating their releases of mercury. The only way the EPA can determine the accuracy of their mercury release numbers is to make enforcement visits to review production data and the mercury release calculations. During the Bush years, the EPA's budgets for travel and enforcement were continually reduced, ultimately making enforcement visits impossible. So, mercury releases as reported by cement and power plants in the past can only be described as questionable.

Jack F. Salter
Evergreen, Colorado

Toxic Release Inventory
Marcus Peacock
Marcus Peacock
Feb 16, 2010 06:44 AM
The Bush Administration strengthened the Toxic Release Inventory -- the information was as accurat, if not more accurate, and was released much more quickly to the public than under any previous administration. Further, the EPA budgets routinely proposed increases to the enforcement budget every year. Indeed, the enforcement office set records for pounds of pollution reduced and fines collected. All of these points are a matter of record.
Mar 12, 2010 11:06 AM
Bush Administration Strengthened TRI? What planet are you living on? The change in Form A eligibility criteria did nothing but allow facilities with PBT chemicals and larger releases/waste management values to slip through the reporting cracks. Because of the Bush Administration there are two reporting years with missing data!

And with the new raw data release coming out last summer I believe that puts this Administration into the category of the quickest to release TRI data.
Bush EPA Record on the Public's Right to Know
Brian Turnbaugh
Brian Turnbaugh
Feb 16, 2010 09:28 AM
For a thoroughly researched record of the EPA's actions under the Bush administration that undermined the public's right to know about pollution in their communities, take a look at two reports by the nonpartisan government watchdog group, OMB Watch, where I am a policy analyst. "Against the Public's Will" (http://www.ombwatch.org/files/info/TRICommentsReport.pdf ) documents the overwhelming public opposition to the Bush EPA's temporarily successful attempt to gut the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Out of more than 122,000 public comments, only 34 (0.03%) supported the changes, which sought to reduce the amount of toxic pollution data available to the public. The changes went through regardless of public reaction and were in effect until Congress and the Obama Administration reversed the changes in 2009. The 2005 report, "Dismantling the Public's Right to Know" (http://www.ombwatch.org/node/2807), outlines the troubling trends we were seeing at the Bush EPA, from the attacks on TRI to reduced data analysis to continued delays in releasing the data to the public.

Brian Turnbaugh
OMB Watch
Washington, DC