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Toxic Release Inventory Reporting – Upcoming Deadline

What is Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting?

Federal regulations require that certain covered facilities report toxic releases to air, discharges to surface waters, and quantities shipped offsite as wastes by July 1, covering the previous calendar year. TRI reporting derives from the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), which was enacted in 1986 in response to environmental and safety concerns posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals by select industries. These concerns were prompted by the 1984 tragedy in Bhopal, India, which resulted from a large accidental release of methylisocyanate fatally and seriously injuring more than 2,000 people. EPCRA’s “Community Right-to-Know” provisions help increase public knowledge and access to information about chemicals stored at industrial facilities, including the release of those chemicals into the environment.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expects that industries that are subject to TRI reporting requirements (see below) timely report accurate and reliable data. Without accurate and reliable inputs from industry, EPA is unable to further its goal of public transparency of toxic releases through the TRI program.

Who is required to report?

While TRI reporting is not a new requirement, annually refreshing your understanding of whether your company is required to report and, if you do not report, why your company is exempt from reporting, is consistent with good environmental compliance management practices.

By way of overview, TRI reporting is required if the facility:

  • Is included under a North American Industry Classification System code specifically identified in the TRI regulations; and
  • Has 10 or more full-time employee equivalents; and
  • Manufactures, processes, or otherwise uses certain listed chemicals in quantities greater than established thresholds during the previous calendar year.

Covered industries include: manufacturing, machinery, textiles, apparel, lumber and wood, furniture, paper, printing and publishing, metal and coal mining, electric utilities, commercial hazardous waste treatment facilities, chemical and allied products wholesale, petroleum bulk terminals and plants, solvent recovery services, and other related industries.

How do businesses comply with TRI reporting obligations?

Facilities required to submit TRI reports must calculate the total amount of toxic chemical releases to the air, discharges to the surface water, and land disposal or recycling activities throughout the previous calendar year. For reporting year 2018, the reports must be submitted to the EPA on or before July 1, 2019.  Reports are submitted electronically via the EPA’s Central Data Exchange system.

Consistent with EPA’s goal to ensure public access to toxic release information, violations of TRI reporting requirements carry hefty penalties – to deter inadequate or inaccurate reporting or not reporting at all, when required. As contrasted with other environmental compliance violations, correcting a TRI reporting violation requires disclosure to EPA that the business failed to previously file a report when required or provide accurate data about the amounts of toxic releases and/or specific chemicals that were released. Against the backdrop of EPA’s enforcement efforts over the years, including the assessment of significant penalties for entities who violate TRI reporting requirements, many companies seek to benefit from enforcement incentives by way of disclosing TRI reporting violations through EPA’s Audit Policy.  If the conditions of EPA’s Audit Policy are satisfied, including, among others, the systematic discovery of violations through an environmental audit and the prompt and timely disclosure of same, regulated entities may be eligible for a reduction in or, in some instances, elimination of the gravity-based civil penalty that would otherwise be assessed by EPA. The EPA’s eDisclosure web-based portal streamlines the submittal of voluntary disclosures of TRI reporting violations. For companies interested in pursuing voluntary disclosure under the EPA’s Audit Policy, we recommend developing a strategy early on in the TRI evaluation process to ensure conformance with the conditions set forth in the Audit Policy.

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About this Author

Michael L. Miller Real Estate Lawyer Wiggin & Dana Law Firm
Partner

Mike is a Partner in Wiggin and Dana’s Real Estate, Environmental and Energy Department in the New Haven office. An experienced environmental, health and safety (EHS) attorney, Mike’s practice is largely comprised of three distinct categories of EHS legal representation: transactional support; compliance and risk counseling; and litigation.

Mike has over thirteen years of EHS compliance and risk management experience. His passion for client service, substantive and technical knowledge and geographic breadth of experience (having worked on matters in over 20 states) contribute to his...

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Catherine Baiocchi legal intern Wiggin Dana
Associate

Katie is an Associate at Wiggin and Dana in the New Haven office.

Before joining Wiggin and Dana, Katie was a Child Protection Legal Intern for the State of Connecticut Office of the Attorney General. Prior to that, she was a Public Defender Intern for the State of Connecticut Public Defender Services.

Katie received her J.D. magna cum laude from Wake Forest University School of Law, where she was the Symposium Editor of the Wake Forest University Law Review and received CALI Awards for Excellence in Civil Procedure I, Contracts I, Criminal Law, Legal Analysis Writing and Research, Collaborative Law, Litigation Drafting, Bioethics, and Family Law. She was elected a member of the Order of the Coif upon graduation. She also received the Outstanding Family Law Student Award for leadership and excellence in the advancement of family law in 2018 from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. While at Wake Forest, she was a Teacher’s Assistant for Legal Analysis Writing and Research I and II, Appellate Advocacy, and Public Interest Drafting. She received her B.A. magna cum laude in Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice from the University of Connecticut.

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