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Report Says Industry Misleading Public On Toxic Emissions With AM-Air Quality, Bjt

August 16, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Major industries are covering up lack of real progress in pollution control through ″phantom reductions″ in toxic emissions, the National Wildlife Federation said Thursday.

The claims were rejected by ALCOA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Paul H. O’Neill, who appeared at the conservation organization’s news conference and accused the federation of ″malicious, deliberate misrepresentati on″ of the facts.

The federation, in a 136-page report entitled ″Phantom Reductions,″ named ALCOA as a prime example of a company using ″creative accounting″ to reduce emissions of chemicals on an Environmental Protection Agency toxic inventory list.

An EPA official said the agency also had cited estimating and reporting methods as reasons for reported decreases in chemical emissions.

The National Wildlife Federation report analyzed the 1987 and 1988 pollution control records of 29 companies identified by the National Wildlife Federation as major sources of toxic emissions. The 29 accounted for nearly 23 percent of 10.4 billion pounds of toxic emissions reported under the EPA Toxics Release Inventory for 1987.

It said that while these companies reported a 39 percent reduction in emissions, the real decline, when ″paper″ decreases were discounted, was only 6.7 percent.

Federation President Jay D. Hair said ALCOA, the nation’s largest aluminum producer, reduced its reported emissions in three Texas and Arkansas plants by 763 million pounds by merely reclassifying the substances being released into the environment.

ALCOA said it discovered less aluminum oxide, a chemical then on EPA’s toxic inventory list, in its emissions. Instead, the federation claimed, the aluminum manufacturer added more aluminum hydroxide, which is not on the EPA list.

Non-fibrous aluminum oxide, which accounts for 95 percent of the aluminum industry’s aluminum oxide emissions, was taken off the EPA list in February this year. ALCOA’s O’Neill, in a heated exchange with Hair, said the federation’s report was a ″scurrilous attack on our integrity and I’m here to say we resent it.″

Hair acknowledged that a federation press release had failed to note that aluminum oxide was no longer on the toxic list. But he responded: ″The fact is that people are breathing 763 million pounds of aluminum oxide. ALCOA, clean up your damned act.″

The National Wildlife Federation report said also that Kennecott Utah Copper had reduced its reported toxic emissions from 158 million pounds in 1987 to only 12.5 million pounds in 1988 by redefining itself as a mining rather than manufacturing concern. Only the manufacturing sector is required to file toxic release inventory reports to the EPA.

″At best this is disingenuous,″ Hair said.

The federation said industries also reduced reported emissions by reclassifying recycled wastes. It said pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly’s plant in Clinton, Indiana, cut emissions of such toxics as methanol and toluene from 16 million pounds in 1987 to 4.3 million pounds in 1988 mainly by not reporting wastes transferred to another company for recycling.

Eli Lilly spokesman Edward West said, ″the motives of the National Wildlife Federation are great, but their interpretation of the data is wrong.″

He said the Clinton plant will spend $34 million this year to purchase and operate pollution control systems and that ″rather than attacking companies the NWF should be encouraging recycling.″

The federation recommended closing the off-site recycling loophole, improving EPA monitoring of toxic emissions, adding chemicals to the toxic list and making more industries accountable for their chemical wastes. Currently about 320 of the 60,000 chemicals used in the United States are included in the Toxic Releases Inventory.

EPA spokesman Sean McElheny agreed that changes in estimating methods and in the chemicals on the list were major factors in reported decreases in chemical emissions.

He said EPA is working to expand the number of chemicals on the toxic list and make reporting mandatory for more industries.

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