Calls for Required Safeguards from Disasters Grow as Obama Administration Releases Report on Chemical Plant Safety and Security

While we are pleased the Working Group report included some of the recommendations made by the most endangered communities and workers, if the Obama administration is serious about protecting workers and communities, the president must stand up for prevention requirements that include safer chemicals and processes. The people of West, Texas deserve better than the voluntary half-measures in today's report. They, and millions of Americans like them, deserve real safeguards from the threat of chemical disasters that are adopted as enforceable requirements – not just voluntary recommendations that the industry can ignore until the next disaster. The true test of President Obama's call to action will come with the EPA's Request For Information (RFI), due to be issued in the Federal Register in the coming weeks.

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New Report Documents Black and Latino Communities at Higher Risk for Chemical Catastrophe

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2014—The Environmental Justice and Health Alliance (EJHA), a national coalition of grassroots groups working on toxic chemical exposures that impact communities of color, released a new report today in collaboration with the Center for Effective Government and Coming Clean. The report – Who's in Danger? A Demographic Analysis of Chemical Disaster Vulnerability Zones – uses data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Census to demonstrate an association between lower average housing values, incomes, and education levels, higher rates of poverty, and that many Black, Latino, and low-income populations are living within chemical disaster "vulnerability zones" of 3,433 industrial facilities across the U.S. The risk of danger is much greater for Black & Latino communities than for the U.S. as a whole – the very definition of an unequal or disproportionate danger.

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One Year after West, Texas: One in Ten Students Attends School in the Shadow of a Risky Chemical Facility

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2014—One year after the fertilizer facility explosion in West, Texas, which destroyed and severely damaged nearby schools, an analysis by the Center for Effective Government finds that nearly one in ten American schoolchildren live and study within one mile of a potentially dangerous chemical facility.

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Communities Continue to Call for Stronger Protections as Chemical Incidents Rise

As the number of chemical disasters and injuries continues to mount in 2014, evidence shows that the risks that chemical facilities present to the local communities in which they are located are greater than many residents previously understood. The Center for Effective Government has created a set of maps, showing how close many of these facilities are to schools and hospitals. The maps are helping communities press for new oversight, safer chemicals, and stronger enforcement of existing standards to prevent future disasters.

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Open Government Prospects in 2014

As we look ahead through the new year, a number of major open government issues will almost certainly become the center of policy debates and offer opportunities for improving transparency. This article presents the top open government issues we believe are most likely to garner the most time and attention of Washington policymakers. And, since every year offers surprises, we also offer a quick list of the most likely "wild card" issues that may emerge in 2014.

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Citizen Access to Information: A Rollercoaster in 2013

What a rollercoaster of a year it was for citizen access to public information. Early in the year, a flurry of activity around improving freedom of information requests took place but then slowed down. Likewise, we are being teased with the possibility of serious improvements in the accuracy of federal spending datasets. We thought we were going to get better disclosure of fracking chemicals on federal lands, but good rules failed to materialize. After 38 years, legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act has been introduced, but with preemption clauses, it could actually end up reducing protections. The information leaked by Edward Snowden has led to tough questions and pressure for better oversight of our national surveillance agencies, but to date no action has occurred. And the government shutdown shut down federal agency websites, leaving citizens in the dark. Here is our take on the biggest ups and downs in open government for 2013.

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Fixing Chemical Security after West, Texas

In the aftermath of the West Fertilizer explosion in April, Congress and the Obama administration are looking for ways they can better address chemical plant security and safety. A congressional hearing on Aug. 1 focused on how the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) chemical security program missed problems at the West Fertilizer plant. On the same day, President Obama issued a new executive order instructing federal agencies to form a working group to identify and fix any regulatory or informational loopholes.

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After Four Years, Obama Delivers Policy Leadership on Transparency, but Agency Implementation Is Inconsistent

Four years ago, President Obama entered office offering an inspiring vision for a more open and participatory government. A new report by Center for Effective Government staff credits the Obama administration for using its first term to construct a policy foundation that could make that vision a reality. However, the actual implementation of open government policies within federal agencies has been inconsistent and sometimes weak.

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Obama's Legacy of Transparency is Unfinished

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2013—In a report released today, the Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch) examines the Obama administration's progress on open government during the president's first term. The review finds that the administration has issued important policy reforms, but that the implementation of White House policies has been inconsistent across federal agencies.

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Scaling Up Transparency: New Approaches Could Yield Greater Openness

Two reforms launched by federal agencies this month represent new approaches to more efficiently releasing government information. New websites to publish declassified documents and records released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) could set new precedents and improve on older practices by making the information available to everyone online.

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