On Dec. 16, the EPA issued the annual Toxic Releases Inventory (TRI), which monitors toxic chemicals discharged into the environment. The Hawaii data reveals that Hawaiian Electric and its subsidiaries accounted for six of the top 10 toxics-releasing facilities in 2009, underscoring the environmental cost of our dependency on fossil fuels.
Toxics released in Hawaii in 2009 totaled 2,947,264 pounds, three-quarters (2,228,566 pounds) of which were released into the air. The air releases comes overwhelmingly from the burning of the oil and coal that supply more than 90 percent of the state’s energy.
Between 2008 and 2009, total toxics released in Hawaii decreased by 9 percent (299,000 pounds). Nationwide, there was a 12 percent decrease over the same period. While Hawaii saw a 59 percent decrease in water releases and a 2 percent decrease in air releases, there was a 29 percent increase in underground injections. Also notable was a 19 percent increase in the release of persistent bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals, or PBTs, into Hawaii’s environment. PBT pollutants remain in the environment and food chain, posing risks to human health and ecosystems.
The data reinforces that switching to clean, renewable, local resources to power Hawaii is not just about energy security and self-sufficiency. It also benefits the health and vitality of our communities, our environment, and our unique island lifestyles.
The TRI monitors 650 toxic chemicals that are managed or released by various industries and reported to the EPA as a requirement of law. They include discharges by facilities to air, water, land, and underground, as well as the amount transferred off-site for disposal. The data is searchable on the EPA’s website.