"People do have a right to know that their air and their water are safe."
- President Clinton
State of the Union Address, 1/23/96
Community right-to-know information is vital to citizens who want to be informed and involved in issues related to local pollution. The Clinton Administration believes that putting environmental and public health information into the hands of the American people is one of the most effective ways to reduce local pollution and prevent it from occurring in the future. With this action, the Clinton Administration is strengthening and expanding the Toxics Release Inventory -- an annual database of chemicals released in local communities and reported by industrial facilities nationwide, and the centerpiece of community right-to-know.
Individuals and more than 1,500 citizens groups across the country use the right-to-know information to work directly with companies releasing the chemicals, as well as state and local officials. Together, they work to reduce the toxic releases that go into the air, land, and water. Use of community right-to-know information is one of the most effective non-regulatory tools against harmful pollution: Since the program began in 1986, facilities required to report toxic releases have reduced their emissions by 43%.
Today's Action Requires More Industries to Report Right-to-Know Data
Today, the Clinton Administration finalized a requirement, announced in June 1996 by Vice President Gore, that -- for the first time ever -- increases by about 30 percent the number of industrial facilities required to make public the levels of toxic chemicals they release into the air, water and land in communities across America. Today's action delivers on President Clinton's commitment to expand every citizen's right to know about local pollution in several ways. The action:
Adds Seven New Industry Categories to Right-to-Know Information. The Clinton Administration is adding seven new industrial categories under the right-to-know program. Those categories are: metal mining, coal mining, electric utilities, commercial hazardous waste treatment, petroleum bulk terminals, chemical wholesalers, and solvent recovery services. These categories will be added to 20 others already reporting on toxic releases. In addition, 700 chemical manufacturing facilities -- which report right-to-know information under existing requirements -- also will report on additional types of pollution required under today's expansion. For example, chemical manufacturers, in addition to reporting releases under current requirements, will have to report hazardous waste treatment activities -- such as burning or stabilizing chemical wastes -- under the new expanded requirements.
Provides More Information on Local Pollution to Millions More Americans. The Clinton Administration expansion of right-to-know reporting requirements to include seven new industry categories means that tens of millions of Americans in communities across the country will be able to know more than ever before about local releases of toxic pollution. For example, new right-to-know reports from bulk petroleum distribution plants will provide new, never-before available information to some 53 million Americans living near those plants.
Invites Stakeholders to Provide Input to Improve New Right-to-Know Reports. Through the new expansion of right-to-know, EPA will establish a process to allow a wide range of stakeholders -- citizens, community groups, environmental organizations, businesses, and others -- to improve the type of right-to-know information available to communities, and to help streamline right-to-know reporting to ease the paperwork burden for businesses affected by the requirements.
To ensure that current right-to-know reporting continues to give Americans a more complete picture of all the toxic pollution released into our communities, the Clinton Administration has:
Ensured that right-to-know reporting will continue unabated. President Clinton protected expansion of right-to-know reporting against Congressional efforts to undermine it with a Pollution Disclosure Executive Order in 1995, requiring federal contractors to meet EPA's pollution disclosure standards.
Required Federal facilities to report toxic emissions to public. To make the federal government a leader in pollution prevention, President Clinton issued an Executive Order in 1993 requiring federal agencies to report toxic releases and cut toxic emissions in half by 1999.
Making information more easily available to citizens. One of the biggest challenges is to make right-to-know information more user-friendly and accessible. The Administration has improved Internet and electronic access; made the information easier to understand and use; and is working to ensure that right-to-know information is available in more public libraries nationwide.
To further enhance Americans' right-to-know about information concerning our food, our drinking water, our homes and our communities, the Clinton Administration has:
Expanded consumers' right-to-know about pesticide health risks: The Clinton Administration worked to ensure that the nation's new food safety law includes special right-to-know provisions, requiring distribution of health information about pesticides on food -- with information about how consumers can avoid those health risks -- in major food stores nationwide. The law -- signed by President Clinton in August, 1996 -- gives EPA new authority to require chemical manufacturers to disclose information about their pesticide products, beyond the requirements in existing laws. EPA also can require manufacturers to provide information about possible effects pesticides may have on reproductive and developmental health.
Made nationwide information available for the first time on state-by-state advisories urging the public to avoid or limit eating fish due to pollution contamination. The information is available, free of charge, on a set of personal computer diskettes or on the Internet, making it easier for Americans to learn about specific health risks.
Provided homebuyers and renters the right to know about lead paint before they buy or rent a property built before 1978. Beginning in 1996, EPA and HUD now require sellers and landlords to provide any known information about lead-based paint hazards; provide consumer information; and provide an optional period for lead paint inspections.
Announced plans to improve consumer informational labels on home and garden pesticides and hard-surface cleaning products. Currently, the health, safety and environmental information on certain product labels, especially on pesticides, is often difficult to find and understand. EPA has invited common-sense ideas for label improvements from consumers, industry and health professionals.
Expanded public access to EPA information on environmental and
problems and solutions. The Agency's electronic ENVIROFACTS
access to environmental facts about local facilities. Citizens
can access new EPA rules on the Internet, as well as submit their
electronically. This information can help citizens to reduce and
pollution within their neighborhoods.