PROTECTING ACCESS TO ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION

RTK Spotlight

National Response Center’s Database of Spills and Accidents “Down for Maintenance” (Center for Effective Government)

For almost a month, the National Response Center’s national database of spills and accidents of oil and hazardous substances has been offline “for maintenance,” but the public and companies can still submit reports of any spills and accidents by phone at 1-800-424-8802. The public can also receive the data via a Freedom of Information Act request.

(20 Mar 2014)

Registration is open for the 2014 National Training Conference on the Toxics Release Inventory (U.S. EPA)

Online registration is now open for the 2014 National Training Conference on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Environmental Conditions in Communities, which will be held May 7-9, 2014 in Arlington, VA. The conference aims to promote greater participation, collaboration, community awareness, and public involvement regarding data on toxic chemical releases and related environmental information. 

(07 Mar 2014)

Communities Continue to Call for Stronger Protections as Chemical Incidents Rise (Center for Effective Government)

As the number of chemical disasters and injuries continues to mount in 2014, evidence shows that the risks that chemical facilities present to the local communities in which they are located are greater than many residents previously understood. The Center for Effective Government has created a set of maps, showing how close many of these facilities are to schools and hospitals. The maps are helping communities press for new oversight, safer chemicals, and stronger enforcement of existing standards to prevent future disasters.

(25 Feb 2014)

E-Gov Spotlight: Informing the Public about Air Quality (Center for Effective Government)

During the week of Jan. 20, the air quality in Utah's Salt Lake City region and parts of California hit red-alert status – meaning that the air was unhealthy for everyone and was especially harmful to sensitive groups like children, the elderly, and those with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forecasts and posts air quality levels in an easy, color-coded format on a website called AIRNow. The site offers users a means to explore air quality levels in their area and ways to protect their health against the impacts of air pollution.

(28 Jan 2014)

Call for Abstracts: 2014 National Training Conference on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Announcing the Call for Abstracts for the 2014 National Training Conference on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Environmental Conditions in Communities! Submit your proposal by December 13, 2013. The conference will be held May 7-9, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia and include sessions on pollution prevention, environmental justice, and environmental public health, along with TRI and other sources of environmental information.

(12 Nov 2013)

E-Gov Spotlight: EPA's Enforcement Database Gets Updated (Center for Effective Government)

On Oct. 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a beta 2.0 version of its enforcement and compliance web-based tool. The new version should make it easier for the public to find information on which facilities near their communities violate air, water, and pollution standards. The agency has requested user feedback as it continues to update and fine-tune the site, so we encourage readers to visit the website and provide comments on your experience to the agency.

(05 Nov 2013)

Tell the President- prevent future chemical disasters! (Greenpeace)

The chemical plant explosion in West, Texas claimed the lives of 15 people and forever changed the community. We can't wait for another disaster of this magnitude to make a change. President Obama has issued a directive to EPA to finally address these danger plants and come up with a plan. Let's make sure the President knows we're watching. Send your letter to the White House right now and tell the President to enforce the Clean Air Act and urge the administration to adopt safety standards that prevent chemical disasters.

(23 Oct 2013)

Americans Want Safer Chemical Facilities, but the Shutdown Stalled Reform Efforts (Center for Effective Government)

A new poll released Oct. 11 found that a majority of Americans want the federal government to require facilities to use safer chemicals and processes to prevent chemical disasters like the explosion in West, TX in April. However, an effort to better coordinate the work of three federal agencies was stalled thanks to the government shutdown. Now that the agencies are all functioning again, we hope they will meet their target deadlines for recommending new policies to improve the safety of facilities handling or storing large quantities of hazardous chemicals.

(22 Oct 2013)

Chlorine Gas Is a Major Risk across the Country, but Needn't Be (Center for Effective Government)

Currently, over 2,700 facilities nationwide store large amounts of toxic chlorine gas, putting millions of Americans at risk of serious harm in the event of an explosion or leak. In the past 15 years, over 600 accidents injuring almost 800 people have occurred at these facilities. However, safer alternatives are available, and many facilities have already turned to them, showing that these alternatives can be commercially successful. Check our new interactive map to see if there are facilities with chlorine gas in your community.

(08 Oct 2013)

E-Gov Spotlight: EPA's Climate Change Tool (Center for Effective Government)

Climate change has become the largest environmental concern in decades, and transparency and accountability will be critical in providing an effective response to combating it. As we move forward in making new policies related to climate change, it is critical that the public be well informed about the issue. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an online tool offering users a means to explore the sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

(10 Sep 2013)

President Obama Signs Executive Order on Improving Chemical Facility Safety & Security

On Aug. 1, the White House issued an executive order on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security. The order forms a Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group, led by three agencies: Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Labor. The new working group is charged with several specific tasks along three main goals: Improving Coordination with State, Local, and Tribal Partners; Enhanced Federal Coordination; and Modernizing Policy, Regulation, and Standards.

(01 Aug 2013)

Updated Database Reveals Significant Chemical Risks Are Distributed Across the Country (Center for Effective Government)

The latest data on chemical storage risks shows that over 50 billion pounds of toxic and flammable chemicals are stored at 12,761 facilities nationwide. As the tragic explosions at the West, TX fertilizer plant and a Geismar, LA chemical plant have demonstrated, these facilities pose serious threats to workers and communities throughout the country. The distribution of high-risk chemical facilities – i.e., those that handle significant quantities of 140 dangerous chemicals – are available at a website the Center for Effective Government created and maintains through the Right-to-Know Network (RTKNET.org).

(30 Jul 2013)

Pitched Battle for GMO Labeling Continues (Center for Effective Government)

In 2013, the ongoing battle between those wanting to know more about the food they're eating and large agribusiness interests has escalated. Twenty-five state legislatures have introduced bills either requiring labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or specifically prohibiting such labels. In June, Connecticut became the first state to actually pass a GMO labeling law. Large agribusinesses have fought hard against efforts to require GMO labeling.

(16 Jul 2013)

Is Anhydrous Ammonia a Risk to Your Community? (Center for Effective Government)

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.

(08 May 2013)

Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Raises Important Questions about Risks Industrial Facilities Pose (Center for Effective Government)

On April 17, there was a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in central Texas, which killed at least 15 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.

(23 Apr 2013)

Oil and Gas Production a Major Source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, EPA Data Reveals (Center for Effective Government)

On Feb. 5, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new data indicating that in 2011, the oil and natural gas sector was the second-highest contributor of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. A method of natural gas drilling, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is a major component of this industry. Given this data and its stated commitment to addressing climate change, the Obama administration will have to reconsider its strong support of natural gas production.
 

(12 Feb 2013)

Amount of Toxics Released in the U.S. Increased for the Second Year in 2011 (Center for Effective Government)

Total releases of toxic chemicals in the U.S. increased for the second year in a row according to Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data reported to and analyzed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The TRI program, established as a part of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986, requires the EPA to make information on the release and transfer of toxic chemicals (above a certain threshold) available to the public in order to provide Americans with a better understanding about toxic pollution in their communities.

(29 Jan 2013)

Nuclear, Petroleum and Toxic Producing Facilities in Counties Hardest Hit by Sandy (OMB Watch)

 
In Hurricane Sandy's aftermath, government agencies have acted quickly to save lives and restore power and other basic essentials for those impacted by the storm. As recovery continues, federal and state agencies will be addressing another growing problem: the noxious materials such as oil, toxic chemicals, and raw sewage that the storm has released into waterways. The health of residents and first responders will depend on knowing what's around them so they can take proper precautions and mitigate risks.

(09 Nov 2012)

Petition Seeks Information on Toxic Fracking Emissions (OMB Watch)

On Oct. 24, OMB Watch and 16 local, regional, and national organizations filed a petitionunder the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require the oil and gas industry, including companies engaged in fracking to report their toxic emissions. Such reporting would provide EPA with more information on the identity, use, and quantity of chemicals used by the oil and gas industry and would help the agency evaluate their health and environmental risks.

(25 Oct 2012)

State Disclosure Policies, Oversight of Natural Gas Fracking Are Inadequate Protection for Water Supplies, Public Safety, New Report Finds (OMB Watch)

In a new report issued on July 9, OMB Watch finds that state oversight laws requiring disclosure of the chemicals used in natural gas fracking are in need of an overhaul. Disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is spotty and incomplete, and essential safeguards are missing.

(11 Jul 2012)