EPA Toxic Release Inventory Misleads Public Says DEC Commissioner
March 27, 2023
“By not specifying the manner of release, the TRI mischaracterizes the harm to the public and frankly undermines the critical work regulators do,” said Jason Brune, Alaska DEC Commissioner. “EPA’s approach does more to fear monger than to alert the public of legitimate risks.”
According to the TRI data for 2021, Alaska’s metal mining industry accounts for 99.8% of the “releases” in Alaska. Out of that, approximately 99.56% of the reported “releases” from Alaska mines reflects permitted and regulated activities – largely moving material to regulated treatment or onsite waste storage areas. The TRI requires mining operations to file reports of the naturally occurring trace minerals in excavated overburden, spent rock, and tailings without acknowledging which of these materials were transferred to state-permitted, engineered, and monitored sites. The TRI assumes that these materials cause environmental harm, when in fact they do not — especially since the materials are often contained in large rocks.
“Moving rocks around from one pile to another at a permitted mine, according to EPA’s TRI report, is far worse than the recent train derailment and associated release of hazardous materials that has impacted thousands of people and devastated the environment in Ohio,” said Brune. “Because of this, EPA once again demonizes the very industries that are vital to the Biden Administration’s goal to decarbonize our nation, which requires increasing domestic production of critical and strategic minerals.”
Toxic chemical release reports are required under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Annually, the TRI collects information on certain releases to air, water, and land and ranks them based on total amount “released” by metal mining, manufacturing, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste facilities across the country.
“The EPA should focus on the entities that actually adversely impact human health and the environment,” said Brune. “I call on the EPA, once again, to fix the TRI so that it recognizes true impacts and prioritizes efforts to hold bad actors accountable.”