New Policy Recommendations Aim to Empower Americans and Strengthen Environmental Right to Know

-For Immediate Release-
May 10, 2011

Contact: Brian Gumm, (202) 683-4812,

New Policy Recommendations Aim to Empower Americans and
Strengthen Environmental Right to Know

WASHINGTON, May 10, 2011—112 organizations have endorsed a 102-page set of environmental right-to-know recommendations, which OMB Watch presented to the Obama administration on the groups' behalf. The recommendations, collaboratively drafted by advocates from across the country, aim to expand access to environmental information, equip citizens with data about their environmental health, and empower Americans to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from toxic pollution.

The recommendations are contained within a report titled An Agenda to Strengthen Our Right to Know: Empowering Citizens with Environmental, Health, and Safety Information, drafted as part of the Environmental Information Initiative project. OMB Watch compiled the report following a year of work that culminated in a conference of almost 100 environmental, health, and safety advocates held in November 2010.

Sean Moulton, OMB Watch's Director of Federal Information Policy, said, "Many of the recommendations laid out in the report are ambitious, but they are also needed. Environmental and right-to-know advocates believe that much more information, presented in more searchable and usable formats, is necessary in order to adequately protect Americans' environmental health."

Three key priorities are woven throughout the recommendations:

  1. Environmental justice must always be considered – Minority and low-income communities have historically borne a far greater proportion of environmental harm than other communities, and several recommendations address the need to improve data on this issue.
  2. Health risks from chemicals need to be better tracked and communicated to the public – There is a great need for more and better data on potential impacts to vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and children without overuse of restrictions such as trade secrets.
  3. Public participation has to start with the government – While there are many communities, organizations, and individuals across the country who are interested and concerned about environmental issues, the first steps to getting those people to engage must come from the government.

The report also includes several "first steps" that the government can and should get started on right away. They include:

  • Increase the collection and distribution of environmental justice data
  • Fill data gaps on the harm from chemicals, as well as address information shortfalls on safer alternatives
  • Ensure product labels disclose all ingredients and their associated risks
  • Forge the Toxics Release Inventory into a more powerful disclosure tool
  • Develop a unified facility reporting system
  • Provide for worker and public participation

Moulton concluded, "The opportunity to advance this proactive agenda is upon us. We call on our leaders and decision makers to take up these recommendations and ensure that every person in the country has access to the information needed to make decisions that enable all of us to live, work, play, and learn within a healthy environment."

An Agenda to Strengthen Our Right to Know is available online at

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OMB Watch is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting government accountability, citizen participation in public policy decisions, and the use of fiscal and regulatory policy to serve the public interest. Find OMB Watch on Facebook and Twitter.

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