Oil and Gas Production a Major Source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, EPA Data Reveals

On Feb. 5, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new data indicating that in 2011, the oil and natural gas sector was the second-highest contributor of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. A method of natural gas drilling, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is a major component of this industry. Given this data and its stated commitment to addressing climate change, the Obama administration will have to reconsider its strong support of natural gas production.

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Amount of Toxics Released in the U.S. Increased for the Second Year in 2011

Total releases of toxic chemicals in the U.S. increased for the second year in a row according to Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data reported to and analyzed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The TRI program, established as a part of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986, requires the EPA to make information on the release and transfer of toxic chemicals (above a certain threshold) available to the public in order to provide Americans with a better understanding about toxic pollution in their communities.

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Another Need in the Aftermath of Sandy: Toxic Soup Testing

In Hurricane Sandy's aftermath, government agencies have acted quickly to save lives and restore power and other basic essentials for those impacted by the storm. As recovery continues, federal and state agencies will be addressing another growing problem: the noxious materials such as oil, toxic chemicals, and raw sewage that the storm has released into waterways. The health of residents and first responders will depend on knowing what's around them so they can take proper precautions and mitigate risks.

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Hurricane Sandy Highlights Role of Government Information in Our Everyday Lives

As the country continues to recover from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, one lesson is already clear: government information plays a vital role in Americans' everyday lives whether they realize it or not. Information created, collected, and disseminated by government agencies alerted the nation to the storm, tracked its every move, and helped millions of Americans to prepare.

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Fracking Continues to Expand Rapidly Despite New Evidence of Health Risks

Another public interest report has confirmed that shale gas extraction is creating new public health risks. However, the fracking boom grows unabated, and drilling is occurring near schools and other locations. This could lead to increased chemical exposures among children and other vulnerable populations.

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Agency Proposal Would Reduce the Public's Right to Know about the Fish Population

Our nation's ocean wildlife and fish are a public resource, and citizens should be able to track the impact of fishing on fish populations. But a new proposal from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will greatly reduce the public's access to essential fisheries data, including taxpayer-funded programs. Restricting public access to fisheries data could erode scientific integrity, transparency, and public participation in government decisions and eventually lead to poorer management of fisheries.

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EPA Proposal Missing Improvements to Water Quality Reports

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, water utilities are required to provide annual drinking water quality reports to consumers. These reports, usually attached to a customer’s water bill, contain information on any contaminants in the water, any violations of water quality standards, and sources of public drinking water. But a new proposal being considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could actually reduce public access to these water quality reports.

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Chevron Refinery Fire Highlights Need for Better Risk Management, Safer Chemical Alternatives

In August, a major fire at a Chevron oil refinery in California sent thousands of people to hospitals and forced local residents to hide in their homes with their doors and windows shut. The fire, which sent clouds of black smoke over the San Francisco Bay area, highlights the risks that refineries and chemical plants can pose to local communities and the need for ready access to information that residents can use to protect themselves and their families from chemical disasters.

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Local Officials Standing Up to Protect Their Communities from Fracking

 Local officials from more than 200 municipalities in 15 states, including city councils, town boards, and county legislatures, have banned natural gas drilling that uses hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking. These officials have decided that fracking poses an unacceptable risk to the drinking water, health, and future of their communities. However, state governments and corporations have started legally challenging these efforts, a move that would strip the power of democratically elected local governments to establish quality-of-life protections their constituencies want.

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Fracking Disclosure Policies Fail to Protect Public Health and Safety

State oversight laws requiring disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (commonly referred to as fracking) are in need of an overhaul. A new OMB Watch report, The Right to Know, the Responsibility to Protect: State Actions Are Inadequate to Ensure Effective Disclosure of the Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Fracking, examines state chemical disclosure rules and aims to empower the public. It also encourages state and local authorities to improve their chemical disclosure standards, especially in those regions of the country most involved in and affected by natural gas fracking.

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