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By Rachel Leven
Facilities required to report chemical releases through the Toxics Release Inventory will need to file electronically, under a final rule to be published in the Federal Register Aug. 27.
The Environmental Protection Agency will require facilities to submit the reports, which are used to track releases and transfers of toxic chemicals at industrial facilities nationwide, by way of electronic software provided by the agency. EPA will exempt companies that file trade-secret-related TRI reports from the new electronic filing requirement, the final rule said.
The rule is effective Jan. 21, 2014.
The electronic filing requirement will make it easier for facilities to report releases accurately and quickly, decrease EPA's costs to process the forms, and allow the public to view TRI information more quickly, according to the notice. The final rule also changes the process for revising TRI forms and withdrawing information.
TRI reports are due July 1 of each year for the prior calendar year.
More than 20,000 facilities filed TRI reports required under the right-to-know program in 2011, according to EPA's most recent annual analysis. While raw 2012 data are available, the data will not be complete until October. The national report is expected in December (144 DEN A-18, 7/26/13).
Manufacturing, metal mining, coal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste treatment facilities are among the 26 industries that must report to TRI.
The electronic reporting rule was proposed in March 2012 (42 DEN A-2, 3/5/12).
EPA will require all nonconfidential data filings to be submitted electronically through its TRI-MEweb online tool. Facilities will need to register through the Central Data Exchange and indicate through CDX that they wish to link to the TRI-MEweb application.
These tools will speed up companies' reporting process by pre-populating the form with prior years' information and potentially help identify data errors, by comparing the current-year data with previous-year data, the final rule said.
Additionally, companies that wish to revise or withdraw previously filed, nonconfidential information will do so through TRI-MEweb, according to the final rule. Companies may amend data going back to reporting year 1991, although the processes will be different for amending data from 1991 to 2004 and from 2005 to the present. Data filed before 1991 may not be updated, the final rule said.
EPA urged facilities whose filings contain trade secrets to continue submitting hard copies of TRI reports as a security measure.
“[T]o incorporate trade secret reports into TRI-MEweb, EPA would require enhancements to TRI-MEweb to ensure it adheres to the higher level of security compliance required to accept trade secrets via an online reporting tool,” EPA said in the final rule. “Due to resource constraints, EPA is not at this time incorporating the few trade secret reports received yearly (consistently fewer than ten such reports) into TRI-MEweb.”
The agency said it may consider an electronic reporting requirement for confidential information in the future.
The final rule on electronic reporting of TRI data is available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2013-20744.pdf.
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