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Knowing Your Rights

2008 May 9

About the author: Cory Wagner joined EPA’s Office of Environmental Information in 2005. He is currently the project manager for the development of the Toxics Release Inventory-Made Easy (TRI-ME) and TRI-MEweb reporting assistance software.

Cory WagnerIndividual rights have certainly been in the news lately. From the Olympic Torch being doused in France in protest of suspected human rights abuses in China, to the Supreme Court reviewing the DC gun ban in light of the Second Amendment, to the continuing struggle to balance an individual’s right to privacy against the safety of the general public in a post-911 world, one can hardly read a newspaper these days without seeing an article about rights. This makes sense as we are a nation built on rights. The rights of the individual are crucial to our way of life and the backbone of democracy.

In 1986, Congress added a new individual right with the passage of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). This act gave local communities access to environmental information about chemical hazards located nearby. You may have wondered “just what is coming out of that smoke stack on that building near my home?”

Well, I currently work in the program that implements part of EPCRA, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Each year, we collect data on releases and transfers of chemicals from industry and make it available to the public. The answer to the question posed above is readily available to you through the use of on-line TRI data tools such as TRI Explorer, Envirofacts, and the electronic Facility Data Report (eFDR). We are continually making efforts to make the TRI information available to you in easy-to-understand formats and as close to the time that we collect it as possible. The TRI program will continue to work hard to ensure that you are always able to exercise your right to know.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. Nate permalink
    May 21, 2008

    Right on brother… keep up the good work!

  2. Ronald J. Gramm permalink
    June 6, 2008

    As a dyed in the wool Anti-Nuclear advocate, it has always amazed me how the Nuclear Power Plants are permitted to release, on a continuous basis, radio-Active solids, liquids and gases and there is NOBODY responsible to tell them to cut that stuff out or to fine them or institute legal action.
    The EPA is POWERLESS on the matter and it is about time , after 50 years looking the other way, to get some power from congress and do something about it. Ronald

  3. Steff permalink
    November 3, 2008

    Hi, I am an ex-employee of TXI Riverside Cement who has been ran through the media this past 2008 for exposing HIGH levels of Hex Chromium 6 , lead, etc…. This was known well before 2008 and this corporation has many repeat violations. I am very concerned about a material we worked with, screened for one year with improper respirators. I specifically asked my supervisor for the MSDS on the material and he replied, ” Oh no, that is top secret.” I guess know I/We know why now. “IT KILLS” I myself had been retaliated and harassed by this company for speaking out. “They had a Open Door Policy.” I had experienced at least 4 major accidents, one being possibly fatal. But instead I am going on a 3 years of Therapy. And 3 years of ridiculous litigation. Are the “Shareholders of these greedy corporations known as the PRIVATE SECTOR holding the key to our caskets, in which they ultimately make the decision if you die fast or slow.

  4. Steff permalink
    November 3, 2008

    I don’t believe they are so much as powerless, but your other comment on looking the other way is right on the money. NO PUN INTENDED. I was able to have the opportunity to join either OSHA or MSHA on a walk around inspection at a cement plant that I was employed for 2 years. Shocked to say the least. Equipment that should of not been operating, we were told to get off, go park by garage and tag it. After the inspectors leave, we take the vehicle or equipment, remove the tag and start business back up. So SO much more.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    March 10, 2009

    Is this Nate from TXI

  6. Min En permalink
    April 22, 2009

    This blog is awesome. The extent to which Americans are protected by their government authorities never cease to amzae me.

    I like to take this opportunity to ask your opinion about a “toxin” that is invisible, proven to be harmful and yet allowed to perpetuate itself in homesand offices. Would it eventually come under your Toxic Release Inventory?

    It is commonly believed that indoor air quality can be much worse
    than ambient air outside the home. So certain groups of people attempt to deal with this.

    Oddly though, these people are bringing ozone, recognized as an
    environmental pollutant, right into their homes and offices. They do this by using the wrong air purifiers which, ironically, they buy to improve their indoor air quality.

    As you know, California is the first state to implement mandatory
    ozone limits to 50 ppb in air purifiers. Have a look at the warning list of unsafe air purifiers at http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/o3g-list.htm.

    People will not know until they are advised constantly or they
    will yield to unrelenting slick commercials. They may buy an air
    purifier to make the indoor air quality better without realizing they may be doing more harm than good.

    Perhaps highlighting this danger in your Toxic Release Inventory may help raise awareness.

    For the record I am not affiliated to any brands of air purifiers. Just an enthusiatic user looking for the ideal one to manage the air quality at home.

    Cheers,
    Min En

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