ALBANY, N.Y. Twelve states sued the Bush administration Wednesday to force greater disclosure of data on toxic chemicals that companies store, use and release into the environment.
The state officials oppose new federal Environmental Protection Agency rules that allow thousands of companies to limit the information they disclose to the public about toxic chemicals, according to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the lead attorney general in the lawsuit.
The change lets 100 polluters off the hook in New York alone, he said. California Attorney General Jerry Brown said more than 300 companies in California can conceal data under the new EPA rule. The other states suing the EPA are Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
"The EPA's new regulations rob New Yorkers and people across the country of their right to know about toxic dangers in their own back yards," Cuomo said. "Along with 11 other states throughout the nation, we will restore the public's right to information about chemical hazards, despite the Bush administration's best attempts to hide it."
The EPA, however, said the change improves the Toxics Release Inventory law and eases requirements only on companies that can certify they have no releases of toxins to the environment.
The EPA this year rolled back a regulation on the law signed by President Ronald Reagan after the deadly Bhopal toxic chemical catastrophe in India in 1984, according to the states involved in the lawsuit. That law required companies to provide a long, detailed report whenever they store or emit 500 pounds of specific toxins.
The new rule adopted this year requires that long accounting only for companies storing or releasing 5,000 pounds of toxins or more. Companies storing or releasing 500 to 4,999 pounds of toxins would have to file an abbreviated form, said Katherine Kennedy, New York's special deputy attorney general for environmental protection.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York City seeks to invalidate the EPA's revised regulations.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the EPA's action cripples a 20-year program that required companies to report the amount of lead, mercury and other toxins they released. "Polluters can release 10 times more toxins like lead and mercury without telling anyone," he said.
EPA spokeswoman Molly O'Neill had no comment on the lawsuit. Companies that can show they release none of the toxins can avoid filing long and time-consuming reports, she said.