Daily News Archive
EPA Continues to Restrict Public Access to Information
In a wave of moves by the government to limit public access to government information, The Watcher, OMB Watch's electronic newsletter, stated that the U.S. EPA announced they will restrict access to the Envirofacts Warehouse website, "as part of [their] continuing efforts to respond to Homeland Security issues " in the wake of the September 11th attacks.
As of April 1, 2002 only U.S. EPA employees and contractors, the military, federal government and state agency employees can obtain the information, and even their access must be approved based on their need for the information. Sponsorship from a U.S. EPA branch chief or higher is also required for U.S. EPA contractors' and state employees' access.
The Envirofacts Warehouse was created by EPA to provide the public with direct access to environmental information contained in its databases on air, chemicals, facility information, grant/funding, hazardous waste, superfund sites, toxic release, water permits, drinking water, contaminant occurrence, and drinking water microbial and disinfection byproduct information.
Environmentalists find it ironic that the government is continually limiting access to information under Homeland Security, yet they are not limiting access to highly toxic chemicals and feel that the government is underestimating the intelligence of terrorists if they think terrorists are not aware of the toxic pesticides and other chemicals so readily accessible to the public.
At the end of last year, the U.S. EPA's risk management program website, which informed communities of dangers from 15,000 chemical plants and other industrial facilities nationwide was dismantled at the same time other government agencies removed "sensitive information" from their websites. Pages removed include information on pesticides, chlorine and gasoline. Although community activists have lobbied for years for more open access to records, agencies now say terrorist access to these documents puts the public in danger. Many right-to-know activists disagree, and believe the current administration is included to hide this information from the public eye.