Improving the Public’s Right to Know at Rio+20

On Sept. 2, 30 U.S. public interest groups joined civil society organizations around the globe in demanding that their national governments improve access to environmental and public health information and increase public participation in environmental policymaking. These organizations are calling on their governments to make such commitments at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in order for people around the world to be able to effectively use environmental information to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from pollution, toxic chemicals, and other hazards.

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EPA Both Increases and Delays Public Access to Critical Greenhouse Gas Data

In August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made several changes to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Mandatory Reporting Rule that will improve, but also delay, public access to critical air pollution data. The EPA will launch an electronic tool to collect and make public GHG pollution data from companies. However, the agency allowed firms in several industries to delay disclosing the factors used to calculate their GHG emissions.

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Commentary: Progress, Pitfalls in Addressing Government Secrecy 10 Years after 9/11

Sunday marked the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This is an appropriate time to look back on what happened to government openness and access to information in the aftermath of the attacks. It seems that after 9/11, government officials stopped believing that Americans could be trusted with information – about their communities, about risks and dangers they could face, and about government actions on their behalf. Withholding information from citizens is a slippery slope for any democracy, yet over the past decade, government secrecy has expanded under the misguided belief that sacrificing citizen access to government information would somehow make us more secure.

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Obama Administration Issues Environmental Justice MOU

On Aug. 4, 17 federal agencies signed a memorandum of understanding that aims to address and reduce the disproportionate harm from environmental degradation that affects indigenous, low-income, and minority communities. The "Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898" (MOU EJ) is the most recent step taken by the Obama administration to address the environmental burdens facing these communities and to encourage people from affected communities to participate in public processes designed to improve environmental health and safety.

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In the Dark on Drinking Water Violations and Contaminants

In July, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released two reports that evaluated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) performance on protecting America’s drinking water. The reports highlight EPA’s long-standing problems with collecting accurate data on violations and identifying and regulating dangerous contaminants. Should EPA fail to address these issues, Americans' health could be in jeopardy.

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EPA Proposes New Expansions to the Toxics Release Inventory Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced its plans to expand the industry sectors required to report to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program and to require electronic reporting for all TRI data. These steps are part of EPA's ongoing efforts to improve and reinvigorate the TRI program.

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EPA Continues to Improve Chemical Transparency under TSCA

On June 8, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the identities of more than 150 chemicals that had previously been claimed as confidential by industry. The EPA's action was the latest step in the agency's initiative, announced in 2010, to disclose more chemical information to the public.

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Fracking Disclosure Pursued on Different Fronts

On May 25, Texas and Michigan moved to join several other states in requiring the natural gas drilling industry to disclose the contents of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. On the same day, two of the biggest U.S. energy companies – ExxonMobil and Chevron – defeated proposals from their shareholders calling for more disclosure of the environmental impacts and risks of drilling for natural gas. Despite such industry resistance, fracking disclosure continues to gain traction as an issue, especially at the state level.

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EPA Suspends Chemical Reporting

On May 11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suspended the next submission period for the Toxic Substances Control Act's (TSCA) Inventory Update Reporting (IUR). The IUR is an inventory of chemical substances in commerce in the United States. The suspension came a month after the agency received complaints from House Republicans and the chemical industry about difficulties complying with new reporting requirements.

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More than 100 Organizations Make Environmental Right-to-Know Recommendations to Obama Administration

On May 10, on behalf of more than 100 public interest organizations, OMB Watch presented a set of detailed environmental right-to-know recommendations to the Obama administration. Collaboratively drafted and endorsed by advocates from across the country, the recommendations aim to expand access to environmental information, equip citizens with data about their environmental health, and empower Americans to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from toxic pollution.

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