Lautenberg and Menendez Block Bush Nominee for EPA Office

Lautenberg and Menendez Block Bush Nominee for EPA Office

Senators Oppose Bush Plan to Restrict Publics Right to Know about Toxic Chemicals At 160 Facilities in New Jersey

Washington - United States Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced today they have placed holds on Molly ONeill, the Bush Administrations nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agencys Office of Environmental Information (OEI).

The holds are in response to the Bush Administrations proposal to dismantle the toxic chemical Right to Know Act that Senator Lautenberg authored in 1986. The proposed Bush changes would deny thousands of communities including 160 in New Jersey full information about the release of hazardous toxic emissions in their neighborhoods. Last month the House of Representatives voted 231-187 to block the Bush Administrations proposal through next year.

For twenty years, the Right to Know Act has helped inform New Jerseyans about toxic chemicals that threaten their health and safety, said Senator Lautenberg. Instead of keeping citizens in the know, the Bush Administrations plan would put them in the dark. Until the Administration abandons this dangerous proposal, President Bushs nominee should not be allowed to assume a high-ranking position at EPA.

New Jersey communities have a right to know about pollutants released into their air, their soil, and their water, Menendez said. Once again the Bush administration is abandoning its responsibility to protect Americans. This shift in policy is just plain wrong and reckless, which is why we are placing a hold on this nominee. The Bush administration may side with toxic polluters, but we wont.

Last September the Bush Administration announced plans to limit the information available to the public under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program, which annually provides communities with details about the amount of toxic chemicals released into the surrounding air, land, and water.

The EPAs plan has three components:

  • Shifting from reports annually to reports every other year
  • Allowing facilities to release up to 5,000 pounds of pollution (ten times the current threshold) before being required to report the details to the public
  • And reducing information available on the management of toxic chemicals that accumulate in the environment (PBTs), such as lead and mercury.

According to 2004 data compiled by EPA, more than 6,200 facilities across the nation reported chemical pollution and byproducts ranging from 500 to 4,999 pounds. Under the Bush Administrations proposed new reporting threshold, these facilities - including 160 in New Jersey - would no longer be required to report how much of their toxic waste is released into the environment.

Facilities that would be exempted from reporting requirements include 1,360 that have released known or likely carcinogens into the environment including 31 facilities in New Jersey. More than 1,800 facilities that use PBTs such as lead and mercury including 44 in New Jersey -- would also no longer be required to disclose details of the chemicals they use and store.