Sierra Club Misinformation on Toxic Releases

On May 11, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its newest Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which covers the 1998 reporting year. The Sierra Club quickly issued a press release claiming that, according to the report, “Texas has the nation’s most toxic air.”

“Although the Sierra Club may not like it, the TRI shows no such thing,” said Patrick Burns, Director of Environmental Policy at Citizens for a Sound Economy. “In fact, according to the TRI, Texas’ air emissions are almost 25 percent below the number one state, Ohio.”

In order to make their false charge, the Sierra Club simply ignores data from industries that were required to report toxic releases for the first time in 1998. According to EPA administrator Carol Browner, however, this new data gives Americans “the best picture ever of the actual amounts of toxic pollution being emitted by industry into local communities.”

The Sierra Club plays more statistical gamesmanship with TRI numbers. In the same press release, the group claims that Texas’ toxic releases rose from 261 million pounds in 1997 to more than 300 million pounds in 1998, a conclusion reached only by counting the new industries they earlier dismissed. Moreover, such year-to-year comparisons are completely inaccurate, according to EPA, because of the new reporting requirements.

Concluded Burns, “These deliberate falsehoods only reinforce what many Americans suspect, that the Sierra Club’s concern is with partisan politics, not the quality of our environment and our lives.”