New Policy Recommendations Aim to Empower Americans and Strengthen Environmental Right to Know

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2011—112 organizations have endorsed a 102-page set of environmental right-to-know recommendations, which OMB Watch presented to the Obama administration on the groups' behalf. The recommendations, collaboratively drafted by advocates from across the country, 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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Transparency at Risk in Budget Debate

Penny-pinching fever has engulfed Washington, with both parties eager to root out perceived wasteful spending. Several proposals look for savings in the government's information dissemination programs. While some of the proposals are carefully targeted reductions, others would slash funding indiscriminately with damaging consequences to some innovative transparency projects and programs.

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Congress Seeks to Reveal Toxic Drilling Chemicals

Congressional Democrats have reintroduced legislation that would disclose the hazardous chemicals used in drilling for natural gas. Cases of potential water contamination have been increasing as the nation experiences a boom in gas drilling and use of drilling chemicals. Secrecy surrounding the identities of the chemicals, many of which are known to be hazardous, has hampered efforts to protect public and environmental health.

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Offshore Drilling Poised to Expand, but Transparency Still Lags

As the Obama administration increases approvals of deepwater oil drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental advocates have seen little meaningful increase in the transparency of the permitting process. A lack of transparency in the regulatory process was identified as a contributing factor in BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and the highly criticized response effort.

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EPA Making Good on Chemical Transparency, But More Is Needed

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is disclosing more information about hazardous chemicals while challenging industry claims that information should be concealed as trade secrets. With major reforms of the nation's chemical law held up in Congress, public health advocates are pushing EPA to take more aggressive action to make chemical health and safety information available to the public.

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Drinking Chrome – New Studies Expose Threats to Tap Water

A new health study found drinking water in 31 out of 35 U.S. cities contaminated by a dangerous form of chromium known as hexavalent chromium. Another study found that hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen when inhaled and a suspected carcinogen when ingested, often contaminates water leaching from coal ash impoundments. The revelations expose the need for greater monitoring of public drinking water and stronger protections against contamination.

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The Teas of Transparency

2010 was a banner year for government transparency, with many significant advances and only a few disappointments. However, there were other events outside the world of government openness that seeped into the collective consciousness, and one of the most notable was the rise of the Tea Party in American politics. For this year-in-review article, we decided to take a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach to assessing and commenting on events in government openness, playing off the theme of tea. Thus, we present to you … the Teas of Transparency.

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Advocates Meet to Invigorate Environmental Right-to-Know Policies

Nearly 100 public interest advocates from around the country recently convened in Washington, DC, to build an agenda for improving the public's right to know about environmental and public health threats. Advocates for public health, safety, and the environment met to develop federal policy proposals that would enhance government engagement with communities and improve access to information crucial to protecting the public. The emerging agenda seeks to capitalize on recent openness initiatives by the federal government and the Obama administration's efforts to improve government transparency, participation, and collaboration.

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Lack of Plan for EPA Libraries Threatens Access to Environmental Information

After more than three years of development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to complete a strategic plan for its library network or to inventory the network’s holdings, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The Bush administration controversially moved to close several agency libraries, but opposition from Congress and the public pushed EPA to reverse course and reopen the libraries. However, the GAO report makes clear that additional steps are needed to ensure the library network's valuable holdings are genuinely accessible to the public.

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Commentary: Did OMB Block Worst-Case Estimates of Oil Spill?

A working paper by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has ignited a controversy about the role of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in controlling information about the spill. The working paper alleges that, soon after the April 20 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig, OMB blocked plans to disclose the government's worst-case models of the spill. The administration's response to the allegations leaves several key questions without clear answers, which can only be resolved by disclosing the drafts and feedback through which these critical documents were developed.

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