Toxics Release Inventory – EPA air emissions instrument gets results

I’m no stranger to the words “inventory” and “audit.” Fact is, my very first job required that inventories regularly be taken to prevent in this case new home audio electronic equipment supplies from running low or out. It mattered not what the consumer product in question was. If in-stock quantities were down, then through the reordering process, stock was replenished. From this, it can readily be seen inventories are useful tools.

DSCN2601 (300x225)Applied to air pollution monitoring, inventorying is no different, although what’s being inventoried – toxic air emissions – is. In the air pollution tracking realm, maintaining such inventories keeps those doing this in the know regarding what if any cleanup progress is being – or has been – made.

So who is it who is doing this type of inventorying? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for one. And in terms of the EPA performing this service, there is good news.

As announced by the EPA on Jan. 16, 2013 and due mostly to hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions reductions, the amount of toxic air released was less – down eight percent in 2011 compared to 2010, Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data show. For instance, “In EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region – Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia – TRI data indicate a decrease of 32.5 million pounds or 13.8 % of chemical releases as compared to 2010.”

Among reasons for the improvement are better emissions release controls via improved technology at coal-fired powered plants, for example. Also, when it comes to fossil-fuel electricity generation, replacing a dirtier fuel with a cleaner one is yet one more way to reduce negative environmental impact.

In speaking to the improvement, EPA chief Lisa P. Jackson in the agency release titled: “EPA’s 2011 Toxics Release Inventory Shows Air Pollutants Continue to Decline,” declared: “‘The Toxics Release Inventory provides widespread access to valuable environmental information. It plays a critical role in EPA’s efforts to hold polluters accountable and identify and acknowledge those who take steps to prevent pollution. Since 1998, we have recorded a steady decline in the amount of TRI chemicals released into the air, and since 2009 alone, we have seen more than a 100 million pound decrease in TRI air pollutants entering our communities.’”

That’s an auspicious track record and that the Toxics Release Inventory is contributing to the improvement, this just goes to show the TRI is indeed an invaluable and necessary tool.

To all concerned who had anything to do with the improvement, from the regulators whose jobs it is to monitor air pollution numbers and/or enforce applicable rules to the involved industry to the interested public, I say this: Keep up the great work!

– Alan Kandel