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Special Report

Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 1999

called PSE&G's NOx initiative little more than "a means to hold back the electricity competition they are not ready for."fn7

PSE&G's position recently was upheld in a regulatory action,fn8, that requires power plant NOx reductions in 22 eastern states throughout the South and Midwest. Furthermore, the utility supports EPA's proposed tightening of national "ambient air quality" standards for ozone and particulates.

The environmental "Agenda for the Future" on PSE&G's website "supports" the TRI. To some observers, this suggests the industry will be hearing a lot more from the company about what constitutes good environmental stewardship.

Among Southern utilities taking action on the NOx front is the Tennessee Valley Authority. It unveiled a "new clean-air strategy" to give the states it serves "greater flexibility for industrial and economic growth in the region." The NOx reductions are expected to cost at least $500 million on top of actions TVA already is taking to comply with the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments.

Perhaps Murray of the Tennessee Conservation League summed it up best by saying "what we're looking for here is progress on some very positive actions that can clean up the environment but also create some new markets for products and services that can help us do that. Whatever happens, we'll end up paying for any changes. So we should try to make them practical ones."

Jim Pierobon is a vice president with Potomac Communications Group Inc. in Washington, D.C., which counsels utilities, energy companies and waste management firms on how to interact with the public and other stakeholders about their environmental performance. More information about TRI can be found at Potomac's website:

How Toxic? Tennessee roundtable ranks pollutants

Should companies collaborate on presenting the data?

One such effort, the Tennessee Pollution Prevention Roundtable (formerly the Tennessee 2000 Initiative), represents a partnership of industry, environmental interest groups, government and educational institutions whose mission is to improve the quality of the environment in the volunteer state.

In 1996, the group offered a study of air pollution produced by cars, power plants, manufacturing industries, government institutions, commercial offices and even homes. The study adopted a relative toxicity score first developed by Vanderbilt University professor Edward Thackston and first used by the Tennessee Conservation League.

Such a ranking could also compare emissions and toxicity, according to Richard M. Strang of Eastman Chemical Co. in Tennessee. What this accomplishes remains to be seen.

"We think there's a really big flaw in the TRI criteria," said Ann Murray, executive director of the Conservation League. "What some people might think of as a dangerous release really isn't; and what might appear to be a benign chemical could be very threatening to human health."

Another member of the Roundtable, Alan Jones of the Tennessee Environmental Council, said data submitted to EPA will tell only part of the story. "As it stands today, the TRI report does not include some important pollutants and sources, nor does it address the differing potential health risks of different pollutants released into the atmosphere."

Who's Got Your Data?

Groups that might post your report