Transparency: Change You can Trust

In 2008, we heard a lot about "change." In this 2009 year-end summary, we use another type of "change" to rate the Obama administration's transparency efforts thus far.

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House Passes Chemical Security Bill

More than eight years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the House approved legislation that seeks to greatly reduce the risks of terrorist attacks on chemical plants and water treatment facilities. The Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009, passed in a 230-193 vote, includes measures long sought by labor, environmental, and public interest groups, including greater worker participation and the authority for states to implement stronger security standards. However, the House bill lacks measures to ensure an accountable security program that is not hobbled by excessive secrecy.

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OMB Watch Updates Chemical Security Database, Enhancing Public's Right to Know about Potential Risks

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2009—On Oct. 29, OMB Watch posted updated information about the risks of serious public harm posed by thousands of chemical facilities nationwide. The risk management plans of approximately 14,000 facilities that handle more than the threshold amounts of 140 dangerous chemicals are publicly available through the website of the Right-to-Know Network (RTK NET), at www.rtknet.org/db/rmp.

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House Moves to Reduce Risks from Chemical Plants

On Oct. 21, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved two pieces of chemical security legislation that encourage plants to switch to safer and more secure technologies. Although the bills still lack crucial accountability measures, they represent a major improvement over the flawed and inadequate temporary security measures currently in place.

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Chemical Security Bills Make Progress in House

Efforts to improve the security of chemical facilities from terrorist attack took a step forward this week as a House subcommittee passed legislation that encourages plants to switch to safer and more secure technologies. The bills – the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009 and a related bill that addresses security at drinking water facilities – also require participation by plant workers in assessing vulnerabilities and creating a security plan. With no Republican support, the party-line vote in the Energy and Environment subcommittee sends the bills to the full Energy and Commerce committee for another vote, likely next week. Although the bills still lack crucial accountability measures, they represent a major improvement over the flawed and inadequate temporary security measures now in place.

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Chemical Security Legislation Begins to Move Through Congress

The House Homeland Security Committee passed legislation June 23 that would greatly reduce the risks and consequences of a terrorist attack on a chemical facility. The bill also includes small but important improvements in the accountability of the nation's chemical security program. However, industry-sponsored amendments and the continued risk of excessive secrecy during implementation diminish the value of the bill.

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Chemical Security Bill Withstanding Industry Assault

Today the House Homeland Security Committee continues its deliberations on a bill that improves security and accountability at chemical facilities. The bill, which would reauthorize and greatly enhance existing security procedures for chemical plants, has so far weathered well the repeated attacks by committee Republicans to gut it.

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Congress Working to Make Chemical Plants Safer from Attacks

The House Homeland Security Committee this week considered legislation that would greatly reduce the risks and consequences of a terrorist attack on a chemical facility. The bill would enhance and reauthorize the flawed and inadequate existing security rules that are due to expire in October. It is crucial that Congress quickly pass and the President sign this security legislation so no more time is lost while millions of people are needlessly put at risk.

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House Considers New Legislation at Chemical Security Hearing

On June 12, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials held a hearing on the current status of the chemical security program at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and considered two bills to amend the program.

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California Restores TRI Reporting for the State

When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed the California Toxic Release Inventory Act of 2007 (Assembly Bill 833) into law on Oct. 13, California became the first state to pass legislation to undo the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) December 2006 weakening of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The new state law establishes the threshold for detailed reporting at 500 pounds of a listed toxic chemical, which was the original threshold for the TRI program before EPA changed the regulations to reduce the reporting burden on companies.

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