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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Wikileaks War Documents Raise Secrecy, Security Questions

Classified documents from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, released in recent months on the whistleblower website Wikileaks, have garnered public attention and prompted widespread debate. For instance, the website's Afghan War Diary, released in late July 2010, contains thousands of classified military documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. Such leaks have raised questions about whether the information should have been released, whether the leaker and Wikileaks should face prosecution, and the military’s strategies to control information.

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Senate Committee Approves Leaving Millions at Unnecessary Risk

Yesterday the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) failed to take action to protect the public, instead choosing to let millions of Americans remain at unnecessary risk of chemical disasters. The committee members chose to gut a House-passed bill that would have reduced the consequences of a terrorist attack on chemical plants and water treatment facilities. The committee also refused to consider a similar bill from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Both the House bill and the Lautenberg bill would have protected workers and communities by driving the adoption of safer, cost effective technologies that eliminate the threat of an intentionally released cloud of poison gas from a chemical plant.

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Chemical Security Bills Reduce Risk, but Secrecy Weakens Program

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has introduced two related chemical facility security bills that would reduce the consequences of a catastrophic accident or terrorist attack at many of the nation's chemical plants and drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities. The legislation addresses many of the issues raised by a coalition of environmental and openness groups, but it fails to provide the accountability and transparency needed to ensure the government's chemical security program would actually make facilities and communities safe.

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Kagan's Impact on Transparency Difficult to Predict

Elena Kagan, President Obama's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, is currently undergoing her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. During the hearing, she will be questioned about a wide range of legal and political issues, which may include government transparency. Kagan's arguments in several transparency-related cases as Obama's Solicitor General may offer some insight into her approach to open government. However, because she has argued those cases from the administration's perspective, her personal legal views on transparency are difficult to assess. It is, therefore, hard to predict how she may rule in transparency-related cases if confirmed as a justice.

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House Moves to Increase Oversight of Intelligence Community

On May 28, the House approved an amendment to the defense authorization bill that requires the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to cooperate with audits and investigations conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The measure was passed despite threats by the White House to veto what the Obama administration perceived to be an expansion of GAO authority.

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Millions Protected From Toxic Terrorism, Congress Must Act to Protect More

More than 40 million Americans are no longer at risk from a poisonous cloud of gas released from a terrorist attack on water treatment plants thanks to process changes at the plants, according to data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The data, painstakingly compiled and analyzed by the Center for American Progress (CAP), reveal that 554 water treatment facilities across the country have converted to safer chemical processes since 1999. However, millions more remain at risk and the Senate is poised to take on this issue. 

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Administration Revises Classification and Declassification Systems

On Dec. 29, 2009, President Obama signed an executive order (E.O. 13526) to prescribe a uniform system of classifying and declassifying government information. The new order was welcomed by open government advocacy groups and will go into effect on June 27.

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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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Congressional Action Succesful in Blocking Judicial Release of Torture Photos

On Nov. 30, Congress and the President succeeded in tying the hands of the judicial system from releasing photographic evidence of American soldiers torturing detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Supreme Court today reversed a lower court ruling that the pictures must be released.

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Administration Moves to Postpone Records Declassification

The Federation of American Scientists blog, Secrecy News, revealed early last week that a revised draft of an executive order on the classification of national security information was circulated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in mid-November.  Despite consulting with the open government community during the policy making process, the policy is rumored to be an unfortunate step backward.

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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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