The $410 billion spending bill that President Barack Obama signed Wednesday will reinstate detailed toxic chemical reporting at more than 3,500 U.S. facilities.
The Bush administration in 2006 reduced the amount of information that facilities storing and releasing smaller amounts of toxic chemicals had to submit to the federal government. Companies using less than 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of toxic chemicals, or releasing less than 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms), could use shorter, less detailed forms. Congressional auditors said the change would have cut by a quarter the number of emissions reports the government receives each year.
A provision in the spending bill eliminates the Bush change, which was pushed by the White House to reduce the regulatory burden on industry. Democratic lawmakers have criticized the regulation, and a dozen states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency arguing it reduces the information available to the public about chemical hazards in their communities.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Demcrat, who authored the portion of the 1986 law requiring toxics reporting, sponsored the measure. He said it restored the public's right to know about chemicals in their air and water.
It is unclear whether the EPA will be able to restore full reporting by July 2008, when the emissions reports are due. Also unresolved is the effect of the provision on the lawsuit.
The toxics rule is just one of several leftover Bush administration environmental policies targeted by the bill. It also clears the way for the Obama administration to reverse a rule that says greenhouse gases may not be restricted to protect polar bears from global warming. Another Bush rule that reduced the input of federal scientists in endangered species decisions can also now be quickly overturned.