NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 13, 2006

Many environmental regulations have a direct impact on what's released into the environment, but the benefits of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) are a lot more tangential, says Andrew M. Langer, manager of regulatory policy for the National Federation of Independent Business.

However, TRI is just a paperwork regulation -- an exercise in environmental accounting and one that is confusing, complex and incredibly time-consuming for small businesses. What's worse is that it treats the smallest of small businesses the same as it does large companies, says Langer.

So, TRI must be reformed, adds Langer; it must learn to accommodate the well-recognized disparities that exist between large and small companies. The reforms proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) go a long way toward doing that while maintaining the core integrity of TRI:

  • Under the reforms, 99.9 percent of all release data being reported will still be reported, even if thresholds are raised; this will provide real and meaningful relief to small businesses.
  • An even greater reform is the EPA's proposal to move to some sort of alternative year reporting; reporting every other year will cut the paperwork burden for small businesses in half, while still allowing for researchers and the public to have access to pertinent information.

But this leaves one question to be answered: Is the community best served when those required to report, report nothing? The answer is no, especially when the costs associated with the program are so high, says Langer.

Source: Andrew M. Langer, "Small firms deserve relief: Reforms needed to reduce burden of time-consuming paperwork," USA Today, January 10, 2006.


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