A Toxic Anniversary

December 3 will mark the 21st anniversary of the massive toxic-gas release that consumed Bhopal, India, killing some 20,000 and injuring hundreds of thousands more, many permanently.

The Bush administration is commemorating the event in typical fashion: by rolling back the signature post-Bhopal achievement limiting toxic releases in the United States.

The EPA has proposed gutting the Toxics Release Inventory, which was established in Bhopal’s aftermath to encourage the disclosure of data on industrial toxic releases. (The EPA is now accepting public comments on the TRI rule change.) Under this proposal, thousands of chemical facilities would be exempt from reporting their toxic releases and data would be disclosed only every other year; for whole years at a time, we would have no data at all on the country’s toxic releases.

Critically, Bush officials are proposing rolling back these regulations in the face of incredible gains under TRI. Since the program’s inception, releases of the original 299 chemicals tracked by the inventory have plummeted nearly 60 percent. TRI data has empowered environmental groups, the press, and concerned citizens to expose toxic dangers and hold chemical facilities and government accountable for improving public safety.

For the Bush administration — which has consistently undercut standards for toxic pollution – that’s likely been the problem.

— Reece Rushing