Sunshine Week, the annual nationwide celebration of transparency in government, prompted numerous analyses of the Obama administration’s progress on improving its responsiveness in processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Through its own analysis, OMB Watch found the administration has continued to make progress overall, but agency-by-agency results have been mixed.
Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of transparency in government, will be held this year from March 11-17. A number of events and activities are planned across the country to raise awareness of the importance of open government.
On Feb. 27, several federal agencies released environmental justice strategies that outlined steps they will take to address and reduce the disproportionate health and environmental harms that affect low-income, minority, and indigenous communities. This release is part of the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to integrate environmental justice into all areas of federal policymaking, including transportation, labor, health services, and housing.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) rule, a policy mandating that public water systems provide annual reports to consumers on the quality of local drinking water. The resulting reports have been criticized for being overly technical, complex, and difficult for the general public to understand or act upon.
While trade negotiations have long involved some level of secrecy, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed regional free trade agreement between the United States and Asia-Pacific partner countries, involves unprecedented levels of work being done behind closed doors. This agreement could curtail crucial activities of state and local governments and would cover profoundly important public policy issues – access to essential medicines, food security, and natural resource management – that deserve extensive public review and discussion. However, intense efforts are being made to block the public from knowing even the most basic content of the agreement.
An interagency project underway could revolutionize implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and significantly improve transparency and efficiency. The project to develop a government-wide portal for FOIA requests, a goal long supported by the open government community, could deliver as soon as this fall.
On Jan. 18, President Obama rejected the permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, which was sought by Canadian firm TransCanada and Big Oil interests. The Obama administration determined that more study was needed to see whether the project was in the long-term national interest of the United States. Communities along the proposed pipeline route that are concerned about public health and safety issues welcomed the administration's decision, even as Republican lawmakers vowed to continue fighting for the project.