Speeches By EPA Administrator
Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Toxics Release Inventory, As Prepared10/17/2011
As prepared for delivery.
When the Toxics Release Inventory became a reality, our communities and our citizens gained a powerful defense for their health, their environment and the health of their children. Over the years, as our technology has improved and our outreach has expanded, this program has become more accessible and more understandable to the American people – and more vital to our work.
It embodies the accountability that communities across our nation expect and deserve. That is something that’s at the heart of the environmental protection movement. When people stepped up 40 years ago to call for stronger environmental protections in their communities, it was because they were dealing with smog and air pollution they could see and smell. It was because their rivers were so polluted that they caught fire.
As safeguards improved and cleanups progressed, we faced the challenge of dealing with pollution and health threats that could only be measured in parts per million. Our communities needed new tools to ensure that they knew about the conditions around their homes and schools and places of worship. That is what TRI is all about.
I started with the environmental protection agency 24 years ago, just as TRI was getting off the ground. In my career I have seen the importance of TRI in very real terms. I have worked with communities and individuals who were concerned about exposure to toxic pollution. It’s been part of my job, from the early years I spent at EPA to my days with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. And when I came back to the EPA as Administrator in 2009, one of the first major news stories was a USA Today piece about air quality around our children’s schools. USA Today wrote that using TRI data to track the path of industrial pollution in reference to almost 128,000 schools. Because of that concern, we worked to ensure that parents could get critical information, and that we could take action where action was needed.
That is how this works. And let me tell you – it has worked. Since this law took effect, toxic releases in our country have dropped more than 76 percent. Here in New Jersey, the progress has been even more dramatic: toxic releases to the air, water and soil are down 94 percent. That’s a reduction of more than 21 million pounds in New Jersey alone.
And because of this success, TRI has gone global. As of this summer, more than 50 countries have put programs in place based on the TRI model.
The success of TRI is a testament to the success of Senator Frank Lautenberg. Senator Lautenberg has dedicated his career in public office to protecting our health and our children’s health – and to empowering the people of New Jersey and the people of this country to safeguard their own communities. Senator Lautenberg had the foresight in 1986 to write the legislation that established TRI. He has continuously argued – forcefully and passionately – that the public has a right to know what is being emitted into the air they breathe. He knows that our facilities have a responsibility to keep the public informed.