New Posts

Feb 8, 2016

Top 400 Taxpayers See Tax Rates Rise, But There’s More to the Story

As Americans were gathering party supplies to greet the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service released their annual report of cumulative tax data reported on the 400 tax r...

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Feb 4, 2016

Chlorine Bleach Plants Needlessly Endanger 63 Million Americans

Chlorine bleach plants across the U.S. put millions of Americans in danger of a chlorine gas release, a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon. Greenpeace’s new repo...

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Jan 25, 2016

U.S. Industrial Facilities Reported Fewer Toxic Releases in 2014

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2014 is now available. The good news: total toxic releases by reporting facilities decreased by nearly six percent from 2013 levels. Howe...

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Jan 22, 2016

Methane Causes Climate Change. Here's How the President Plans to Cut Emissions by 40-45 Percent.

  UPDATE (Jan. 22, 2016): Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its proposed rule to reduce methane emissions...

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NASA Launches New Disclosure Policy

The National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) released a new policy statement governing public dissemination of information from the agency. Released on March 30, the policy is an apparent response to allegations that the agency attempted to suppress scientific research on climate change that contradicted Bush administration policy on the issue. While the new policy does begin to clarify and establish official guidelines for release of information, it remains too vague and contains too many loopholes to fully function as a vehicle for public disclosure.

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Spotlight on Secrecy and Overclassification

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, representatives from the National Archives, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) received harsh questions regarding a secretive, multi-agency reclassification program, as well as unclear sensitive but unclassified (SBU) policies.

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Sensitive But Unclassified Info: You Can't Have It. Why? Because They Say So.

The explosion in the use by federal agencies of Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) designations to withhold information since the 9/11 terrorist attacks has resulted in uneven policies across agencies and unnecessary restrictions on public access to information, according to a recent American Bar Association report. Such problems have manifested themselves in Connecticut, where state officials are trying to access, and make public, safety information pertaining to a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, in order to determine and reduce any risk to the public posed by the plant.

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Infrastructure Protection Plan Fast-tracked Right Past the Public

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a Nov. 2 draft of its National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) and only provided a two-week window for requesting a copy of the plan and a 30-day public comment period. According to its authors, the report offers a "comprehensive, integrated national plan for the protection of critical infrastructures and key resources." Yet, the time constraints on viewing and commenting on it do not allow for substantive public review or response.

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Open Records Problems in Old Kentucky

Kentucky has recently experienced challenges implementing its Open Records Act. Officials have already been accused of abusing new homeland security exemptions to the state's open records law to avoid public scrutiny of matters unrelated to terrorism concerns. One decision to withhold information will be reviewed in court this week. In another case, Governor Ernie Fletcher will likely go to court to challenge the state attorney general's decision to make certain records available to the public.

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First Public Case of Critical Infrastructure Information

A New Jersey resident, requesting access to a township's electronic map of land parcels, has brought to light the first public example of a law that hides information that meets standards for "critical infrastructure information" (CII). The local municipal utility denied the resident’s request for land parcel information, because the data had been protected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the CII program.

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Transportation Agency Hides Vital Data as 'Sensitive Security Information'

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is invoking its little-known secrecy powers to hide a variety of information from the public, labeling the information as Sensitive Security Information (SSI). The agency's excessive and unreasonable use of the power is troubling, with recent examples defying common sense, and revealing that TSA withholds information from those who use it for safety reasons or even for their jobs.

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OMB Watch Criticizes Nuclear Commission's Secrecy Rule

OMB Watch submitted comments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) yesterday, criticizing its Feb. 11 proposed rule on sensitive but unclassified information. The agency's proposed amendments for 'Safeguards Information' and 'Safeguards Information-Modified' are extremely vague and would hide vast amounts of information from public purview, reducing access and accountability at the already secretive agency.

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Freedom of Information Legislation Moving Forward

The week of March 14 was an important week for open government, with the introduction of two pieces of legislation to improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — the Faster FOIA Act, and the Restore FOIA Act. Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first oversight hearing on FOIA since 1992. Faster FOIA Act Moves to the Full Senate

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DHS Finally Speaks on CII

Almost a full year ago OMB Watch filed a request, under the Freedom of Information Act, to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for information on their Critical Infrastructure Information (CII) program. The request sought an accounting of how the program was used thus far including the number of submissions, rejections, and communications, as well as program procedures for handling information. Unfortunately, DHS was not very prompt with answers. In fact, it took a summons filed in the DC Circuit Court to get even a few pieces of basic information about the CII program.

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Resources & Research

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race, and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards

People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely...

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A Tale of Two Retirements: One for CEOs and One for the Rest of Us

The 100 largest CEO retirement funds are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41 percent of American fam...

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