Environmental Information: Agencywide Policies and Procedures Are Needed for EPA's Information Dissemination

RCED-98-245 Published: Sep 24, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 1998.
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Pursuant to a legislative mandate, GAO determined the status of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to: (1) provide communities with risk information on toxic chemical releases in their areas; (2) make the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act's (EPCRA) chemical inventory information publicly accessible; and (3) develop policies, procedures, and standards for disseminating environmental information to the public.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency To help ensure that EPA provides the public with data that are accurate, complete, and relevant to its needs, the Administrator, EPA, should supplement the agency's existing policies on information resources management by developing agencywide policies and procedures that specify guidance and standards for program offices involved in designing, developing, and implementing information dissemination projects. Such guidance and standards should address obtaining stakeholders' involvement in the projects' design and development, testing for and correcting errors in the data, and communicating contextual information on the data's uses and limitations.
Closed – Implemented
EPA has initiated several projects aimed at developing and implementing the policies and procedures GAO recommended. Collectively they address GAO's concerns about providing a common process for developing data systems and disseminating data, providing for stakeholder involvement in the data systems, and ensuring that the data is accurate and provided in a format that meets the needs of major stakeholders and the public. One of the key projects is the Information Products Bulletin that is intended to help ensure that EPA's information products are accurate and useful, clearly characterize the data incorporated in the products, and provide detailed information on opportunities for stakeholder and public involvement in developing information products.
Environmental Protection Agency Given the potential usefulness of EPCRA section 312 data to the public, the Administrator, EPA, should evaluate options to make the data more accessible and implement the most cost-effective option that provides availability on a regional and national basis. In implementing the project, EPA should use the policies and standards for dissemination projects that GAO has recommended.
Closed – Implemented
EPA developed new software (Tier2Submit) that states can use to facilitate the electronic submission of EPCRA section 312 data. Having a common format for states should ease the preparation of reports by industry as well as the management and sharing of data by states and locals.

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