House Votes to Stay Uninformed about Greenhouse Gases

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new program tracking the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution spewing from big facilities is among the victims of a long list of environmental programs attacked in the House this week. The House voted to slash funding for the EPA's new greenhouse gas registry, which requires the biggest GHG emitters to disclose how much planet-warming gas they spew every year, starting with 2010. The registry places no regulations on emissions, but it does collect vital information needed to take any meaningful steps toward reducing GHG pollution. The House clearly wants all of us to remain in the dark about where the pollution is coming from.

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EPA Analysis Shines New Light on Toxic Pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released an expanded and enhanced "National Analysis" of the 2009 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data. The National Analysis examines trends in toxic pollution and waste generation from thousands of facilities nationwide. This year, EPA has added several new features and new analyses that help the public track pollution and identify the biggest polluting companies. The improved National Analysis is another positive step in a series of actions EPA has taken to strengthen the TRI program.

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EPA Expands Toxic Right-to-Know Program

For the first time since 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added chemicals to the list of toxic substances that must be reported to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI program tracks toxic pollution from thousands of facilities nationwide. The move is an overdue step in the right direction for this crucial right-to-know program and represents a welcome break from the previous administration's attempts to weaken TRI.

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More Information Sought on Cell Phone Industry Influence on FCC

In an article in the current edition of OMB Watch's Watcher, we discuss serious concerns about the extent of the wireless communications industry's influence over regulators. Following San Francisco's move to inform the public about potentially dangerous exposures to cell phone radiation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – the agency in charge of regulating cell phone radiation levels – changed its website. The FCC deleted a suggestion to consumers to seek phones with lower radiation levels (known as SAR values), and added a lot of industry-speak downplaying the legitimate concerns raised by public interest groups. Now the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is demanding to know why the FCC made the changes and what role the wireless trade association might have played.

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Transparency at SEC Threatened by New Financial Reform Law

Open government advocates have raised serious concerns over a little-noticed provision in the new financial reform legislation that severely restricts the public's access to records held by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The new provision exempts certain SEC records from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The aim of the new legislation is to increase transparency in the financial sector, but without access to enforcement records and other regulatory documents, the public loses a vital tool for holding our financial system regulators accountable.

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EPA Pushing Pollution Data Out to Public with New Tools, Earliest TRI Release Ever

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week released the preliminary 2009 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data, the earliest data release in the history of the program. The TRI program tracks toxic pollution from thousands of facilities nationwide and is considered one of the most successful environmental programs and a cornerstone of environmental right to know. The preliminary data are now available for the public to download and analyze, maintaining TRI as a vital tool for holding businesses accountable for their pollution and driving changes to prevent pollution.

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Senate Committee Approves Leaving Millions at Unnecessary Risk

Yesterday the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) failed to take action to protect the public, instead choosing to let millions of Americans remain at unnecessary risk of chemical disasters. The committee members chose to gut a House-passed bill that would have reduced the consequences of a terrorist attack on chemical plants and water treatment facilities. The committee also refused to consider a similar bill from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Both the House bill and the Lautenberg bill would have protected workers and communities by driving the adoption of safer, cost effective technologies that eliminate the threat of an intentionally released cloud of poison gas from a chemical plant.

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EPA Finally Discloses What's in the Oil Spill Dispersants

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally disclosed the chemical identities of the ingredients of the dispersants being used on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Until now, the public was only provided the limited information available in the dispersants' material safety data sheets (MSDS). The MSDSs for the dispersant, known as Corexit, were produced by the dispersant's manufacturer, Nalco Company. The MSDSs provide very little information, hiding chemical identities by labeling them "proprietary" or omitting them entirely.

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EPA and DHS Order BP to Stop Hiding Oil Spill Information

Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took steps to increase the transparency of the response to BP's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil company's actions have been criticized for failing to disclose or monitor important information about the spill, including the quantity of oil erupting into the Gulf, the potential health impacts of the oil and the chemicals used to disperse it, and water and air quality information. The actions by EPA and DHS, although belated, are needed, welcome, and hopefully portend a higher standard for transparency that is enduring and comprehensive, not limited to responses to colossal disasters.

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BP Won't Say What Toxics It's Dumping Onto Its Oil Spill

British Petroleum has in fact gone "Beyond Petroleum" and is now spilling tons of toxic chemicals known as dispersants onto their colossal oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, hoping to break up the slick before it reaches shore. However, BP refuses to disclose what chemicals are in the dispersants they are dumping into the Gulf. The chemical identities are considered trade secrets. Without knowing the chemical identities, we may never know what additional insults BP has left us to clean up for years to come.

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