WASHINGTON -- Saying that the Bush administration wants to avoid "an adversarial relationship" with business, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency is urging 600 industrial companies to voluntarily reduce pollution from 17 toxic chemicals.
"We want to demonstrate what can be achieved through a cooperative effort," said EPA administrator William K. Reilly, who announced yesterday that he was writing to the chief executives of the largest U.S. polluters in hopes of achieving a one-third reduction in pollution from these chemicals by 1992 and a 50 percent cut by 1995.
"These are aggregate national goals, which may not be achievable or appropriate for every company or every plant," Reilly said in his letter.
Reilly said at a news conference that he believes that many industrial leaders "are ready to step up to the plate as good corporate citizens to help reduce troublesome pollutants. "If we succeed, the initiative could set the pace for a new, cooperative way of addressing the nation's environmental goals."
Reilly said that he was pleased by positive results from a smaller effort last year in which he personally contacted the officers of about 50 large industrial plants, mainly in the chemical and paper-processing industries.
Although he did not offer details of what had been accomplished, he said that business executives had found that there are positive advantages in reducing pollution.
"Companies can save on waste management, reduce the use of raw materials and minimize liability," Reilly said. "And moreover, by taking this approach, companies can help relieve themselves of regulatory burdens."
The majority of the companies are located in the northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region. Most are engaged in the petroleum, chemical, rubber and equipment-manufacturing businesses.
Reilly described the companies on his list as "the largest contributors to a universe of 1.4 billion pounds of toxic wastes at over 11,000 facilities."
But being a source of such pollution "does not indicate that a company is mismanaged or out of compliance with pollution control regulations," he said, noting that environmental laws provide for a gradual phaseout of certain chemical emissions.