EPA Releases Raw TRI Data Early

August 26, 2009

EPA on August 18, 2009, released raw Toxics Release Inventory data for the data year 2008 — a promptness unprecedented in the history of the program that some took as a sign the agency was trying hard to reverse Bush-era secrecy.

That was the good news. The bad news, of course, is the rawness of the data — one of the key reasons for delay in prior years. A certain amount of the data submitted by industry is inaccurate, incomplete, or improperly formatted. Historically, EPA has taken a long time to work with submitters to get the data right, and more time to analyze the data itself, before "releasing" it to the public.

The Bush EPA — which conducted a long effort to diminish the amount of data collected, its quality and usefulness, and the amount of public access to it at the urging of business lobbies — had begun the practice of releasing data with no interpretation. But the fastest data release in previous years was rarely less than 1-1/4 years after the end of the data year, and usually more. Businesses didn't actually have to turn 2008 data in to EPA until July 1, 2009.

So reporters — who can download the data here — will have more current takes on toxic emissions. But because the data has not yet been thoroughly vetted, they will need to do more of their own ground-truthing if they use it. EPA will issue revised data and analysis later.