|Source:||EPA 1994 Toxics Release Inventory
Public Data Release, Appendix D
The TRI data were first released to the public in 1989. Since then, TRI data use has expanded rapidly, both in terms of the number of data users and the variety and complexity of their projects. This appendix summarizes the major categories of TRI data use and provides a few examples of representative uses in each category.
Each year, the EPA develops this national summary report and a state fact sheet compendium to distribute to the public at the time the complete national TRI database is first released. These reports help raise public awareness of the TRI data and provide ready access to aggregate information that helps track progress in reducing emissions. Twenty-three states prepare similar summary reports for their TRI data.
Many public interest groups disseminate TRI data by analyzing and compiling it in summary reports. A bibliography prepared by the Working Group on Community Right-to-Know in summer 1994 lists well over 100 state and local reports and more than 30 national TRI reports compiled by public interest groups. These reports may focus attention on top dischargers, identify chemicals or geographic areas of concern, and highlight perceived needs for further action.
Because the public now has access to information about what potentially harmful substances are being released into their communities, they can use this information to begin to understand potential risks and to work with facilities to reduce those risks.
- "Manufacturing Pollution," a report produced by Citizen's Fund in August 1992, aggregated 1990 TRI data from different facilities by their parent company. The report summarized releases of all TRI chemicals, as well as subsets of chemicals that could cause cancer or birth defects.
- "Poisons in Our Neighborhoods," a report produced by Citizen's Fund in November 1993, summarized 1991 TRI data nationally and by state. The report attempted to measure the progress of manufacturers in preventing pollution and included report cards evaluating the pollution prevention efforts and performance of the top 50 waste-generating facilities in the chemical industry.
- "Troubled Waters: Major Sources of Toxic Water Pollution," a report released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in June 1993, examined TRI releases to surface waters and to publicly owned sewage treatment plants. Release of the report was timed to focus public attention on water and sewer discharges during Congressional attempts to revise the Clean Water Act. The report made recommendations for amending the Act to provide the public more information about toxic releases to waterways and to strengthen enforcement.
- "Where the Wastes Are," a report released by OMB Watch and the Unison Institute in April 1994, examined facilities receiving the largest quantities of shipments of TRI chemicals in waste. The report identified the largest off-site recipients overall and in particular categories, such as incinerators and landfills. The report also profiled certain companies active in the operation of these toxic waste management facilities.
Voluntary Emissions Reductions
- After an analysis of 1987 TRI data revealed that an IBM plant in the "Silicon Valley" area discharged the largest quantities of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in California, a public interest group organized a campaign to reduce those emissions. Within months, senior management at IBM had pledged to completely eliminate the use of CFCs in their products and processes at the plant by 1993.
- Following the release of an environmental group's report identifying a local facility as the 45th-largest emitter of carcinogens to air in the nation, community activists in Northfield, MN, worked with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union to call for emissions reductions. Contract negotiations between the union and the facility resulted in an agreement for a 64% reduction in the use of toxic chemicals by 1992 and a 90% reduction in toxic emissions by 1993.
- In 1993, the Minnesota Citizens for a Better Environment released a report profiling the state's "top 40 toxic polluters" based on emissions of certain priority chemicals. The report was designed to provide enough information to support local efforts to negotiate with facilities for emissions reductions. Since publication, activists have worked with 18 of the 40 facilities identified in the report.
The public availability of the TRI data has led many corporations to commit publicly to voluntary emissions reductions. One wellknown pledge was Monsanto's 1989 commitment to reduce its worldwide air emissions of toxic chemicals by 90% by 1992. In addition to providing the impetus for these reduction pledges, the TRI data also provide the public with the measurement tool needed to track companies' progress, as well as providing the companies a means of demonstrating their commitment and success.
A number of national, state, and local voluntary emissions reduction programs have sprung up since the beginning of TRI reporting. Many of these programs use TRI data to set toxic emissions reduction goals and to track progress in meeting those goals. Most of these programs provide positive recognition to companies or facilities that meet their reduction pledges.
Pollution Prevention Targeting
- EPA's "33/50 Program" targeted 17 priority TRI chemicals for emissions reductions of 33% by 1992 and 50% by 1995, from 1988 levels. Chapter 4 of this report discusses the 33/50 program and its early achievement of the 50% reduction goal.
- Louisiana's Environmental Leadership Pollution Prevention Program is a statewide emissions prevention and reduction program that seeks a 45% reduction in toxic chemical emissions by 1997, using 1992 data as a baseline. The program sponsors the Governor Awards for Environmental Excellence to promote public recognition of industry achievements.
- The states of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia have joined together in a "Tri-State Initiative" to identify, prevent, and remediate environmental threats in an area known for its industrial base and its susceptibility to air inversions. Program coordinators are using a risk assessment process to focus on sources of greatest concern. The program will use voluntary industry commitments and cooperative efforts between industry, the public, and government to achieve reductions in releases of TRI chemicals and criteria air pollutants.
Many government agencies are using TRI data to identify pollution prevention opportunities and better target their technical and financial assistance resources.
Legislation and Regulation
- The Pollution Prevention Program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment used TRI data, in combination with other air and water emissions data and hazardous waste data, to identify 10 industry sectors which are responsible for the largest quantities of hazardous waste generation or toxic emissions in the state. This study will serve as the basis for establishing priorities for pollution prevention activities and for distribution of technical assistance grants. The report will also be used to target large companies for participation in a Governor's Pollution Prevention Challenge Program to reduce toxic emissions and hazardous waste generation.
- The Pollution Prevention Division of the state of Georgia's Department of Natural Resources used TRI data in the process of identifying the technical assistance needs of manufacturing sectors that generate chemicals posing the greatest relative risk to public health and the environment. First, the Division prioritized chemicals based on toxicity and regulatory factors. The Division then examined manufacturing sectors releasing the highest-priority chemicals and identified particular subsectors for further assessment. The program is now conducting in-depth manufacturing sector assessments, including focus groups and site visits, to determine what processes produce the wastes, what multi-media waste problems exist, what pollution prevention activities are currently being undertaken, and what additional opportunities exist.
The large quantities of toxic emissions reported under TRI have highlighted the need for changes in environmental regulations and legislation. Environmental groups have used TRI data to lobby for new or stronger national and state environmental protection laws or better enforcement of existing regulations. Government agencies have used TRI data to set priorities for regulatory development and implementation.
- TRI data provided the impetus for passage of pollution prevention laws in many states. Many of these laws require facility pollution prevention planning; some laws charge facilities fees based on quantities of toxic chemical emissions or waste generated.
- The magnitude of largely unregulated air toxics releases revealed by the TRI data identified the need for additional air toxics legislation and helped create the political climate necessary to pass such laws. The release of the first national TRI data in 1989 helped lead to the passage of stringent air toxics requirements in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. TRI data helped spur the Louisiana state legislature to require the state Department of Environmental Quality to issue regulations identifying 100 priority pollutants, setting emissions standards for those pollutants, and targeting a 50% emissions reduction from 1987 levels by 1994. A public interest group report on unregulated air toxics emissions in North Carolina led the state's Environmental Management Commission to set limits for 105 air pollutants.
- TRI data were used by some states in developing their lists of waters impaired by toxic pollutants under section 304(l) of the Clean Water Act. Public interest groups in 10 states used TRI data to petition EPA to add certain other bodies of water to these lists. For example, in North Carolina, the Clean Water Fund used TRI data and stream flow information to show that toxicity levels in 15 areas exceeded state and federal criteria for protecting human health and the environment.
The TRI data are being used in many environmental education programs, particularly at the high school and university levels. Students learn about toxic chemical releases, the potential health and environmental effects of those releases, pollution prevention activities and opportunities, and the social and political aspects of environmental protection. Some organizations are also conducting educational outreach programs using TRI data.
- Students in the Environmental Studies Department at Dickinson College (Pennsylvania) use TRI data to conduct toxic waste audits on communities or facilities. Students identify epidemiological and environmental health effects, occupational exposure standards, and other relevant information. Students arrange plant tours which focus on toxic chemical use reduction and "good neighbor" agreements between facilities and communities. They also meet with local citizens, environmental organizations, labor unions and others.
- The John Snow Institute Center for Environmental Health Studies has developed a tutorial entitled "Environment and Health: How to Investigate Community Environmental Health Problems." This tutorial introduces the public to TRI and other resources which can be used to identify and address local pollution sources. Audiences include librarians, local officials, members of the media, environmental advocates, the general public, and students from high school to graduate level.
TRI data are used extensively to identify and prioritize potential risks from toxic chemical releases. Risk screening processes using TRI data can help governments and others target facilities, industries, chemicals, or geographic areas for further investigation or follow-up actions, including voluntary reduction efforts, technical assistance, incentives and disincentives, regulation development, or enforcement.
Simple risk screening techniques may sum TRI release data or release and transfer data by facility, geographic area, industry sector, or chemical. These approaches rely on certain assumptions, such as equal hazard potential from all chemicals and equal exposure potential for each environmental medium.
Other approaches weight the TRI data by the toxicity of the released chemical. Weights may be qualitative or quantitative toxicity rankings, or they may be based on toxicity values, such as a cancer potency or an acceptable dose level. More complex systems incorporate exposure evaluations, including information about chemical fate, environmental dispersion, and the size and characterization of receptors.
Environmental Justice Analysis
- New York State's Department of Health developed a risk screening protocol which uses TRI air release data to produce relative risk rankings for facilities and chemicals within the state. The procedure combines air emissions data and toxicity potency data to give a quantitative risk screening score for each facility. Three separate rankings were developed, based on carcinogenicity, non-cancer endpoints, and a combination of both factors. The results of these rankings suggested to the Department of Health that there is a need for more careful evaluation of potential health effects resulting from large releases of noncarcinogenic compounds such as respiratory irritants and small releases of very potent inorganic carcinogens.
- EPA's Office of Water used TRI data and other water emissions data in its National Sediment Contaminant Source Inventory, an evaluation of sources of sediment contamination in the U.S. This project identified point source pollutant discharges that may result in sediment contamination and analyzed these releases based on their potential sediment hazard. Chemical release amounts were weighted by the compound's relative toxicity to aquatic or human health, as well as relevant fate and transport factors. The study identified chemicals, geographic areas, and industrial categories of greatest concern for sediment contamination.
- Three EPA Regional offices are developing a screening process that will allow decision-makers to focus pollution prevention efforts, exposure and risk assessments, or epidemiological studies on areas of greatest concern. The first phase of the process produces a "Chronic Index," which ranks TRI releases in terms of their relative toxicity. The results of this Index are aggregated by facility, by chemical, and by geographic area using a grid system. The second phase of the process will produce a "Vulnerability Index," which describes the susceptibility of populations by scoring demographic attributes such as age, economic status, and minority status.
- EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics is nearing completion of its TRI "Environmental Indicators Model," which provides year-to-year indicators of the potential impacts of TRI chemical releases on human health and the environment. The indicators consider TRI release and transfer volumes, chronic toxicity, exposure potential, and size of receptor populations. Both generic and site-specific exposure characteristics can be incorporated. The model will allow targeting and prioritization of chemicals, industries, and geographic areas.
Public interest groups, academics, and government researchers are using TRI data to investigate environmental justice issues. TRI data can be used to help determine whether members of racial or ethnic minorities or people with lower-income levels may experience higher levels of exposure to or risk from toxic chemicals released by industrial facilities.
Geographic Information Systems
- Researchers from EPA's Office of Health Research recently published a study of national and regional differences in countylevel TRI air emissions according to the ethnicity or race and household income of the populations. Using a measure known as a "Population Emissions Index," a population-weighted average emission for each county, the study found that all minority groups except Native Americans tend to live in counties where TRI air emissions levels are higher than in counties where whites live. However, the data also suggest that household incomes tend to be higher in counties with higher TRI air releases.
- Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara's Center for Geographic Information and Analysis used 1989 TRI data and 1990 U.S. Census data to examine and map significant relationships between the race and income of populations and their proximity to TRI sites in Los Angeles.
Many organizations are incorporating TRI data into computerized Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to analyze and display TRI data and to examine potential impacts in particular geographic areas. GIS is particularly useful for combining data from multiple sources, because it allows overlays of data for the same geographic areas for display and analysis. GIS can show locations of emissions sources (such as TRI sites) relative to receptors (such as residential populations or water sources), environmental characteristics surrounding the sites, and political boundaries. GIS users can perform calculations, such as determining the number of people within a certain distance of a facility, and can build sophisticated models to evaluate potential risks.
Enforcement and Compliance
- The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy used TRI data in a GIS to prioritize facilities and geographic areas for implementation of pollution prevention measures. A grid system of two-mile by two-mile cells was used for aggregation of air releases and land releases. Minor watersheds were used to aggregate and map water releases. In order to study the cumulative impact of many releases in the area, chemicals were grouped based on health and environmental effects.
- EPA's Office of Information Resources Management sponsored the development of a Population Estimation and Characterization Tool, which uses GIS technology and demographic data for riskbased and environmental justice applications. The tool allows users to estimate and characterize populations within a given radius of a single TRI facility or multiple facilities and to identify areas of multiple potential exposure.
Because the TRI data include detailed facility identification information, as well as releases to all media and transfers to off-site locations, TRI is particularly well-suited to multimedia enforcement and compliance planning, priority-setting, and targeting. TRI data can be integrated with other release and waste generation data, monitoring data, and compliance history information to provide a more complete picture of facility or industry compliance with environmental regulations.
EPA and many states are also using TRI data to attempt to identify violations of various environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
- EPA's Office of Research and Development and Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance are developing a "MultiMedia Ranking System" to prioritize sites for enforcement actions and to evaluate the effectiveness of environmental laws in reducing risks from sites. The system ranks sites based on their multi-media releases of pollutants, their potential risk to human health and the environment, and the history of legal violations by the facility. The system combines TRI data with data from EPA air and water databases. For each site, the system develops a Chemical Ranking Factor based on chemical toxicity and fate information, a Vulnerability Ranking Factor based on the climate, soil type, and other environmental properties surrounding the site, and a Population Ranking Factor based on the demographic characteristics surrounding the site.
- Twenty states use TRI data to target permit compliance inspections of facilities.
- EPA's Office of Air and Radiation has used the TRI data to aid in identifying potential or actual violations of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for lead.
- EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response has used TRI data as a means of establishing potential liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Investment analysts, researchers and others are using TRI data, along with other environmental and social data, to rate companies' comparative environmental performance. Demand for environmental performance information by investors, insurance companies, and the public has led many companies to develop environmental annual reports similar to annual reports on financial performance traditionally prepared for investors.
The concept of "green indexing" can also be applied to industry sectors or to geographic areas. For example, TRI and other environmental data can be used to rank industries based on their comparative potential for environmental harm or to rank states based on indicators of their environmental quality.
- The Clean Yield Group, an investment portfolio management group, compares companies' TRI release data to their industry averages of pounds of toxic chemicals per dollar of sales. This serves as a rough yardstick to gauge how a company measures up against other companies in its industry and allows the investment firm to track how the company's release performance is improving from year to year.
- The Investor Responsibility Research Center, Inc., a notfor -profit research organization for institutional investors, uses TRI data in developing its Corporate Environmental Profile Directory. This directory presents quantitative, consistently derived data that allows investors to evaluate and compare corporate environmental performance. The corporate profiles include TRI release and transfer data, as well as an "Emissions Efficiency Index" which compares toxic chemical emissions to the company's domestic revenue.
- Fortune magazine used TRI data as a central element in compiling a "green index" of America's biggest manufacturers. The magazine examined companies' environmental records and developed a relative ranking system that assigned companies scores from zero to 10 in 20 performance categories, including the amount of toxic emissions per dollar value of sales and their percent reduction in toxic chemical emissions. The article included lists of 10 leading companies, 10 "laggard" companies, and 10 most improved companies.
Taxes and Fees
- A researcher in Louisiana developed a method for normalizing the TRI data to allow comparisons among facilities, industries, and states to help evaluate the comparative effectiveness of pollution control strategies, policies, and programs. The method calculates an "emissions-to-jobs ratio," the number of pounds of emissions per job in a given industry and location. This ratio is then compared to a national or other average to determine relative performance. It can also be tracked over time to evaluate improvement.
- The Institute for Southern Studies, a public interest group, used TRI data in producing a report entitled "The 1991-1992 Green Index: A State-by-State Guide to the Nation's Environmental Health." This report ranked states according to numerous environmental criteria, including toxic chemical emissions.
A number of states base fees on the number of TRI reports filed or the quantity of TRI chemicals released and/or transferred from facilities. Some states use TRI data to tax facilities or to modify their taxes. Taxes and fees can serve as important incentives to prevent waste generation and pollution.
- The "environment-to-jobs" ratio calculated in Louisiana was included in an environmental scorecard that was developed and implemented to modify tax exemptions granted to facilities to encourage and reward job creation. If a facility's environmental score (including its "environment-to-jobs ratio") was low, the amount of the tax exemption could be decreased.
- The U.S. Internal Revenue Service used TRI data to identify companies releasing CFCs in order to enforce a tax imposed on releases of CFCs.
Source: USEPA 1994 Toxics Release Inventory Public Data Release (EPA 745-R-96-002, June 1996).
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