Pollution vanished from the public record

Trump’s EPA told the chemical corporations to change their numbers — and they did.




For more than a decade, communities crammed with chemical plants that produce the carcinogen ethylene oxide have watched their neighbors die while regulators do nothing.

But under Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency did worse than nothing. Instead, it invited chemical companies to retroactively change its reporting on toxic releases, making them appear smaller and less harmful.

An investigation from The Intercept found that seven chemical corporations edited their numbers, erasing nearly 270,000 pounds of cancer-causing pollution from the public record — one of the few tools we have to hold chemical corporations accountable.

The Intercept is constantly watchdogging the corporations poisoning our communities, but exhaustive reporting like this isn’t cheap.

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The Intercept’s award-winning reporter Sharon Lerner is relentless in digging for the truth about toxic chemicals. She lifts up the communities fighting corporate polluters, giving a voice to those typically ignored and overlooked.

Her latest investigation is an exhaustive piece of journalism. From Illinois to Texas, she met with nearly a dozen people living in the shadow of chemical plants, fighting for their lives and that of their neighbors. She worked with Material Research to comb through years of Toxic Release Inventory data from the EPA to find discrepancies.

She learned that the EPA itself was to blame for at least some corporations retroactively changing their data. And she reports that the agency still hasn’t told several vulnerable communities that their exposure to cancer-causing pollution is up to 10 times the legal limit — defying advice from the inspector general.

The EPA has always been too easily bullied by the industry it’s supposed to regulate. And even with Trump gone, the agency won’t transform overnight. That’s why Sharon and the rest of our reporting team won’t stop watchdogging the regulators and the polluters — or telling the stories of the people they harm.

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The Intercept is an award-winning nonprofit news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism. Our in-depth investigations and unflinching analysis focus on surveillance, war, corruption, the environment, technology, criminal justice, the media and more. Email is an important way for us to communicate with The Intercept’s readers, but if you’d like to stop hearing from us, click here to r0 from all communications. Protecting freedom of the press has never been more important. Contribute now to support our independent journalism.

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