Florida Propane Plant Explosion Highlights Exemption in Risk Management Program

On Monday night, explosions at a propane plant in central Florida injured nine workers, including five critically, and required the evacuation of residents within a half-mile of the plant. Though the exact cause of the incident is being investigated, the plant explosion raises serious questions about the need for more comprehensive risk management planning to inform and prepare communities near facilities with flammable chemicals.

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Tax Reform Should Not Happen Behind Closed Doors

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) pledged to their colleagues in the Senate earlier this month that their tax reform proposals—namely on tax breaks and loopholes, both of great concern to corporate interests—would be kept secret for 50 years. In contrast, presidential records become accessible to the public after 12 years with certain exceptions.

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Senators Press EPA about Safety Measures at Chemical Plants

In a rare display of bipartisanship, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and David Vitter (R-LA) sharply questioned staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in yesterday's Senate hearing on oversight of federal risk management and emergency planning programs that are designed to prevent incidents at hazardous chemical plants.

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President Obama’s Climate Plan Embraces Fracking – But at What Cost?

Yesterday, President Obama unveiled a broad plan aimed at curbing carbon pollution. In his new climate action plan (the most comprehensive one by a U.S. president to date), the president calls for expanding natural gas development as a cleaner energy source. While burning natural gas emits half the emissions as coal, the method used to develop the fossil fuel is anything but clean and could outweigh any benefits.

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Congress Says Special-Ops Budget Too Secret

While details on spending on specific national-security programs are sometimes kept from the public, such secrecy is not supposed to extend to Congress. Lawmakers are supposed to have detailed information on executive branch activities so they can knowledgeably exercise their constitutional power of the purse.

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Illinois Passes Strongest Fracking Bill in Country

Today, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act (SB 1715), which would give the state the strongest oversight rules on fracking in the country. Though by no means perfect, the Illinois legislation is a step in the right direction and could influence debates and strengthen rules about oil and gas drilling and extraction in other states.

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Disclosure of NSA Surveillance Programs Underscores Need for Increased Transparency of National Security Activities

As more facts come to light about the massive, ongoing surveillance affecting millions of Americans, it is imperative that the government bring greater transparency and accountability to national security programs. We need a new national debate about personal privacy and security and where we as a country will draw the line.

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Protecting Military Whistleblowers and Victims of Sexual Assault

Members of Congress are rightly outraged at the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. No one should have to suffer the trauma of sexual assault – least of all those Americans who have volunteered to serve our country, and whom our military has a duty to keep safe. Sadly, that promise is not being kept. Approximately 26,000 service members were victimized in the past year, according to a recent Defense Department survey. Even worse, of the women service members who suffered sexual assault, nearly 70 percent did not report the crime to a military authority – a majority of which said that they felt uncomfortable making a report. And no wonder why: of the women who did report, more than 60 percent said they suffered retaliation for doing so.

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Improving Rules on Implementing the Freedom of Information Act

Up-to-date Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules that support transparency are important for ensuring agencies are properly implementing the law. Last week, the Center for Effective Government submitted comments to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) on its proposed FOIA implementation regulations and encouraged the agency to expand online disclosures, improve communication with requesters, clarify fees and fee waivers, and improve the process of submitting and processing administrative appeals.

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BLM Fracking Rule Violates New Executive Order on Open Data

Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its revised proposed rule for natural gas drilling (commonly referred to as fracking) on federal and tribal lands. The much-anticipated rule violates President Obama's recently issued executive order that requires new government information to be made available to the public in open, machine-readable formats.

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