Is Anhydrous Ammonia a Risk to Your Community?

Anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate are the two substances that have been investigated as possible causes of the April 17 explosion of the West Fertilizer Company plant in Texas. Though experts now believe the explosion was due to the ammonium nitrate, the facility did have two 12,000-gallon tanks of anhydrous ammonia, which could have exacerbated the tragedy in Texas had they leaked or exploded.

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Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Raises Important Questions about Risks Industrial Facilities Pose

On April 17, there was a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in central Texas, which killed at least 14 people and injured more than 200. Though investigators are still trying to determine the exact cause of the incident, the West Fertilizer Company's explosion raises serious questions about managing the risks that facilities can pose to local communities.

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Open Government Advocates Disappointed by Rollback of STOCK Act Requirements for Online Access

Just a year after enacting it, Congress and the president rolled back a key transparency provision of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act) instead of amending it to address concerns.

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Shortcomings in Transparency Performance Point to the Need for Reforms of Freedom of Information Act

The Center for Effective Government's recent analysis, Freedom of Information Act Performance, 2012: Agencies Are Processing More Requests but Redacting More Often, highlighted some troubling trends in agencies' performance in providing information to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and found wide disparities among agencies. These shortcomings show that legislation will be needed to repair the current weaknesses in the FOIA system.

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Congressional Bills Seek to Cut Public Scrutiny and Participation Out of Keystone XL Decision

The Keystone XL pipeline is a controversial project that would transport tar sands oil (which is more corrosive than crude oil) from Canada through America's heartland to Texas, creating air, water, and public health risks in its wake. In the past two weeks, lawmakers have introduced bills in both the House and Senate to strip the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline away from the Obama administration. The bills, if passed, would short-circuit the regulatory permitting process and prevent the public from voicing their concerns about the public health and environmental risks of the pipeline.

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One Step Forward, One Step Missed: House Committee Approves Limited FOIA Improvements

On March 20, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act (H.R. 1211), sponsored by the committee's chair and ranking member, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD). The bill would take steps to improve agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and require agencies to post more public information online. However, more reforms will be needed to address fundamental flaws in the current FOIA system.

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After Four Years, Obama Delivers Policy Leadership on Transparency, but Agency Implementation Is Inconsistent

Four years ago, President Obama entered office offering an inspiring vision for a more open and participatory government. A new report by Center for Effective Government staff credits the Obama administration for using its first term to construct a policy foundation that could make that vision a reality. However, the actual implementation of open government policies within federal agencies has been inconsistent and sometimes weak.

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