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Earth Day 1997 -- Fact Sheet

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Council on Environmental Quality


To Keep Citizens Informed, Involved on Local PollutionIssues
April 22, 1997

"People do have a right to know that their air and their 
		waterare safe."

- President Clinton
State of the Union Address, 1/23/96

Community right-to-know information is vital to citizens who wantto be informedand involved in issues related to local pollution. The ClintonAdministration believes that putting environmental and public health informationinto the handsof the American people is one of the most effective ways toreduce local pollution and prevent it from occurring in the future. With thisaction, the Clinton Administration is strengthening and expanding the ToxicsRelease Inventory -- an annual database of chemicals released in localcommunities and reported by industrial facilities nationwide, and the centerpieceof community right-to-know.

Individuals and more than 1,500 citizens groups acrossthe country use the right-to-know information to work directly with companiesreleasing the chemicals, as well as state and local officials. Together, theywork to reduce the toxic releases that go into the air, land, and water. Use ofcommunity right-to-know information is one of the most effectivenon-regulatory tools against harmful pollution: Since the program began in 1986,facilities required to report toxic releases have reduced their emissions by43%.

Today's Action Requires More Industries to ReportRight-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 tomake public thelevels of toxic chemicals they release into the air, water andland in communities across America. Today's action delivers on PresidentClinton's commitment to expand every citizen's right to know about localpollution in several ways. The action:

  • Requires Thousands of Local Facilities to Begin Right-to-KnowReports. The Clinton Administration is adding 6,100 new facilities that willbegin reporting on toxic releases in local communities, so that a total of 31,000facilities will now report toxic emissions to the public, community bycommunity.

    Adds Seven New Industry Categories to Right-to-KnowInformation. The Clinton Administration is adding seven new industrial categoriesunder the right-to-know program. Those categories are: metal mining, coalmining, 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 toxicreleases. In addition, 700 chemical manufacturing facilities -- which reportright-to-know information under existing requirements -- also will report onadditional typesof pollution required under today's expansion. For example,chemical manufacturers, in addition to reporting releases under currentrequirements, will have to report hazardous waste treatment activities -- suchas burning or stabilizing chemical wastes -- under the new expandedrequirements.

    Provides More Information on Local Pollution toMillions More Americans. The Clinton Administration expansion ofright-to-know reporting requirements to include seven new industry categories means thattens of millions of Americans in communities across the country will beable to know more than ever before about local releases of toxic pollution. For example, newright-to-know reports from bulk petroleum distribution plantswill provide new, never-before available information to some 53 million Americansliving near those plants.

    Invites Stakeholders to Provide Input to Improve NewRight-to-Know Reports. Through the new expansion of right-to-know, EPA willestablish a process toallow a wide range of stakeholders -- citizens, community groups,environmental organizations, businesses, and others -- to improve the type ofright-to-know information available to communities, and to help streamlineright-to-know reporting to ease the paperwork burden for businesses affected bythe requirements.

A Long Record of Expanding the Public's Right-to-Know About LocalPollution

To ensure that current right-to-know reporting continues to giveAmericans a more complete picture of all the toxic pollution released intoour communities, the Clinton Administration has:

  • Nearly doubled the list of chemical releases reportedto the public by factories that release them into the environment,adding 286 chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory in 1994.

    Ensured that right-to-know reporting will continueunabated. President Clinton protected expansion ofright-to-know reporting against Congressional efforts to undermine it with a Pollution Disclosure ExecutiveOrder in 1995, requiring federal contractors to meet EPA's pollution disclosurestandards.

    Required Federal facilities to report toxic emissions topublic. To make the federal government a leader in pollution prevention,President Clinton issued an Executive Order in 1993 requiring federal agencies toreport toxic releases and cut toxic emissions in half by 1999.

    Making information more easily available to citizens. Oneof the biggest challenges is to make right-to-know information moreuser-friendly and accessible. The Administration has improved Internet andelectronic access; madethe information easier to understand and use; and is working toensure that right-to-know information is available in more public librariesnationwide.

The Clinton Administration is Taking Bold Steps to ExpandRight-to-Know to OtherImportant Areas

To further enhance Americans' right-to-know about informationconcerning our food, our drinking water, our homes and our communities, theClinton Administration has:

  • Given the American people the right to know about tap watercontaminants:The Clinton Administration proposed improvements in consumerinformation about local tap water in 1995. President Clinton fought for and signedinto law a newSafe Drinking Water Act that gives Americans access to direct,simple information -- sent directly to their homes in water utilitybills -- about local water quality, contaminants, water sources, and healthrisks. The Administration also required drinking water monitoring forcryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants in large drinking water systems, tobe made available through a toll-free hotline.

    Expanded consumers' right-to-know about pesticide healthrisks: The Clinton Administration worked to ensure that the nation's newfood safety law includes special right-to-know provisions, requiring distributionof health information about pesticides on food -- with information abouthow consumers canavoid those health risks -- in major food stores nationwide. Thelaw -- signed by President Clinton in August, 1996 -- gives EPA new authorityto require chemical manufacturers to disclose information about theirpesticide products, beyond the requirements in existing laws. EPA also can requiremanufacturers toprovide information about possible effects pesticides may have onreproductive and developmental health.

    Made nationwide information available for the first time onstate-by-state advisories urging the public to avoid or limit eating fishdue to pollution contamination. The information is available, free of charge, ona set of personal computer diskettes or on the Internet, making it easierfor Americans to learn about specific health risks.

    Provided homebuyers and renters the right to know about leadpaint beforethey buy or rent a property built before 1978. Beginning in 1996,EPA and HUD now require sellers and landlords to provide any knowninformation about lead-based paint hazards; provide consumer information; andprovide an optional period for lead paint inspections.

    Announced plans to improve consumer informational labels onhome 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 hasinvited common-sense ideas for label improvements from consumers,industry and health professionals.

    Expanded public access to EPA information on environmental andpublic health problems and solutions. The Agency's electronic ENVIROFACTSprovide public access to environmental facts about local facilities. Citizensand businesses can access new EPA rules on the Internet, as well as submit theircomments electronically. This information can help citizens to reduce andprevent pollution within their neighborhoods.

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