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Environmental Information: EPA Could Better Address Concerns About Disseminating Sensitive Business Information

RCED-99-156 Published: Jun 25, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 1999.
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO: (1) provided information on the usefulness of publicly available environmental information to competitive intelligence professionals; and (2) assessed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to address industries' concerns about providing the public with access to sensitive business information.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency To help ensure that the long-standing concerns about the collection and dissemination of sensitive business information are addressed in a consistent, comprehensive manner, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Program Manager of the new Information Office to develop an action plan that details how the office will address issues surrounding sensitive business information. A central feature of this plan should address how EPA will balance its need to collect and disseminate potentially sensitive business information with industries' concerns about such activities. To ensure that EPA fully considers the concerns of all interested parties, this action plan should be developed with extensive and representative involvement by stakeholders.
Closed – Implemented
EPA completed several actions to address the issues involved in this recommendation. It established an Information Sensitivity Workgroup to reexamine the agency's criteria for determining the sensitivity of information. Accordingly, the workgroup developed a draft Confidential Information Compendium, designed to enhance staff awareness of the various types of confidential information and their responsibility for protecting it. EPA also created the Central Data Exchange (CDX) to enable electronic submittal and exchange of environmental information between EPA, states, Indian Tribes, local governments, and regulated entities. Consistent with GAO's recommendation, OEI is actively investigating how to best include electronic reporting of confidential business information in CDX.

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