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E-M:/ Report Critical of Access to Enforcement Data



JUST RELEASED........ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRITY PROJECT OF THE
ROCKEFELLER FAMILY FUND REPORTS ON PUBLIC
ACCESS TO STATE ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT
DATA IN THE GREAT LAKES STATES

THE FULL REPORT IS AVAILABLE AT:

http://www.rffund.org/news.cfm?StoryID=89608C65-EE85-4506-A349-62727A5620D5

>>>NEWS RELEASE<<<
For Immediate Release:
April 2, 2003
CONTACT:
Robert Kaplan, (202) 478-6130
rkaplan@mrss.com
GREAT LAKES STATES NEED TO IMPROVE PUBLIC
ACCESS TO ENFORCEMENT DATA, SAYS NEW STUDY
Regional Findings Indicate National Trend of Lack of Access
Washington, DC
– Five Great Lakes states need to improve public access to environmental
enforcement data, according to a new report
Assessing State Enforcement: Too Many Claims, Too
Little Data
released today by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). Not only is public
access to this information required by the law, but state and federal environmental enforcers
must also have ready access to this data in order to do their jobs effectively.
According to the report, “Americans have a right to know when our environmental laws are
broken, what actions government has taken to stop those violations, and whether those who
broke the law have paid for their misconduct and corrected the problem.”
“Millions of dollars are spent each year on compliance assistance for businesses,” said Eric
Schaeffer, former Director for Civil Enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
and current Director of EIP. “States should develop similar programs to help citizens obtain and
understand information about how well companies comply with the law.”
The report examined the accessibility and availability of enforcement data in five Great Lakes
states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some of the biggest obstacles to
acquiring enforcement data included the following:
Public documents are difficult to access. While some state agencies publish summaries of
enforcement actions, they are not searchable and do not link to key enforcement documents.
Instead, state enforcement documents can only be accessed by the public through
cumbersome hand searches of agency files following an open records request.
Failure to regularly conduct independent audits of the state environmental
enforcement program.
There are no regular and comprehensive internal or external audits
of state enforcement programs.
Prohibitively high fees to process open records requests. Michigan’s state agency, for
instance, charged EIP more than $2,000 for fulfilling an open records request that involved
reviewing approximately 200 individual files in the Air Quality Division.
“State agencies should fulfill their mission to protect public health by enhancing public access to
key environmental information. We look forward to working with them to find ways to
improve their current systems,” said Schaeffer.
EIP recommendations include:
Periodically conduct independent audits of the state environmental enforcement
program.
Audits will allow states to identify and correct deficiencies in their enforcement
programs, including improving data systems.
Post environmental enforcement documents on the agency website, in a searchable
database.
Citizens and others should be able to access key data such as inspections
performed, violation notices, enforcement actions and compliance schedules. States should
also make information searchable by facility and provide links to permits and other related
enforcement documents.
Establish a right-to-know advocate within the agency. The right-to-know advocate
should have the authority to press for continual improvements in the public’s access to basic
data about compliance with environmental laws.
Use permit fees as a funding source for the public information program. States should
examine their current permit fee structures and establish or increase fees for permits. These
fees should be used to improve public access to enforcement data.
The report “Assessing State Enforcement: Too Many Claims, Too Little Data”
(March 2003) is available at www.rffund.org.
EIP invites state agencies reviewed in “Assessing State Enforcement”
to respond to the report.
Agency responses should be emailed to mmerkel@rffund.org.
Responses received will be posted on www.rffund.org.

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