“Scant Oversight and Lax Reporting” Doom Federal Right-to-Know Regs

by jim on July 14, 2013

haz mat suitsReuters examines the almost 30-year old Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act and finds that, depending on what state you live in, the information that's supposed to be provided to the public is either semi-correct, or full of holes you can drive tanker trucks through.

One of the provisions of the Act is supposed to be an annual inventory of all hazardous chemicals on site at a particular facility. Some 500,000 different substances are covered under the regs and should be accounted for…

But facilities across the country often misidentify these chemicals or their location, and sometimes fail to report the existence of the substances altogether. And except for a handful of states, neither federal nor local authorities are auditing the reports for errors.

As was demonstrated in West, recently, it's important to know what hazardous materials are stored where and in what quantity. Not only for the sake of surrounding residents, but for the first responders coming to their aid in any kind of accident or incident. Reuters cites several examples where firefighters showed-up and were injured on the scene when they didn't know a hazardous chemical was on-site.

A recent Congressional study estimated 60 deaths, more than 1,300 injuries and more than $1.6 billion in onsite and off-site damages caused by accidents at facilities storing 140 Tier II chemicals that have been deemed most dangerous by the EPA.

These numbers also don't include accidents at oil and gas industry sites, often exempt from the same reporting requirements as other industries. It's another reason why Dallas should include a complete, water-proof disclosure provision in any new gas drilling ordinance its Council passes.

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