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A fight over easing rules for reporting toxic emissions

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But in a teleconference last Thursday, environmentalists, first responders, and health advocates unveiled an analysis showing that under the new EPA plan, at least 922 communities nationwide - more than 10 percent of the nation's ZIP Codes - would lose all numerical TRI data on local polluters, according to the National Environmental Trust, an environmental group in Washington.

In Kentucky, at least 13 ZIP Codes would no longer receive TRI data under the new EPA proposal. In Jefferson County, Ky., 15 of some 75 TRI facilities would not have to report data if the plan is implemented, the NET analysis shows. In the county, data on 45 tons of toxic releases would not have been reported if the EPA's proposed standards had been in place, says the NET study.

"The EPA plan would result in an inaccurate picture of pollution at the local level, hamper our ability to prepare for emergencies, and provide an incentive for facilities to pollute more in our communities," says Tom Natan, director of research for the NET.

Besides the 3,849 out of 21,489 TRI facilities nationwide that would be excluded from reporting toxic release data, another 1,608 among the 8,927 ZIP Codes with TRI facilities across the country would have the reportable amounts cut in half, Dr. Natan says.

Many activists say it is not time to decrease reporting requirements because the TRI program continues to be effective. It is widely credited with helping reduce almost 65 percent of toxic chemical releases since its inception, Natan says. And more, not less, information is needed on industrial toxic releases, many activists say. They point to the chemical soup generated by industrial facilities after hurricane Katrina struck; a big benzene spill in China last month; and a chemical spill that killed more than 2,000 in Bhopal, India, in 1984.

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