Thursday, September 17, 2009

EPA Improving Transparency

According to a September 15, 2009 article posted on OMB Watch, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken seriously the Obama Administration push for all federal agencies to become more transparent. Examples of the steps that EPA is taking to increase transparency include:

  • Releasing the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2008 early. Rulemaking under the Bush administration restricted the amount of toxic release information made available to communities and the public. This data release restores reporting to the levels that existed before that rulemaking.
  • Releasing two sets of data about the herbicide atrazine which is commonly found in streams and groundwater but is toxic to humans and animals even at low levels. One data set is for drinking water monitoring and the other is for ecological monitoring.
  • Making available online data about the air quality around selected schools.
  • Publishing a list of the highest-risk coal-ash dumpsites in the nation.

On the cautionary side, however, OMB Watch notes that some data releases are the result of FOIA requests and lawsuits. The EPA also still lacks a permanent assistant administrator for the Office of Environmental Information (OEI) which plays a key role in releasing data to the public.

More information about each of these steps is available from the full article on OMB Watch.