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RE: Greetings and Question for Today: What kind and what amount of information do people need ?

What kind of information am I looking for?

Usually I'm looking for information that is the answer to a specific problem - a company emits noxious fumes, or an abandon contaminated site is not properly secured. The information I'm looking for is whatever it takes to get something done about the problem.

>From a community perspective, the issue of access to and quality of information usually begins with a problem. There is some immediate, irritating, and difficult situation that you want resolved.

While EPA does provide a lot of information that could be useful, much of it is raw data, and often carries with it some disclaimer about accuracy or the conclusions that can be drawn. It's about as helpful as a map of the human genome would be to the average cold sufferer. This is especially true for time sensitive isues, like when you must respond to a purposed permit within a thirty day time period. By the time you figure out what is happening, it's too late to matter.

I believe there is a need for more "how to" or "problem-solution" type information. If I'm an ordinary citizen concerned with a facility in my neighborhood, I probably don't know where to begin.

So what I'd like is something that says: first determine if the facility is complying with all applicable regulations. Here's the database that will tell what industrial code the facility is in and here is where you can find out what rules apply to that type of industry. Next, here is some information about how to check that the applicable rules have been included in the permit, and here is how you find out if there recorded violations of the permit.

Once I know if the facility is in compliance, the next step is to figure out what I might do to that will help solve my problem.

If the facility appears to be in compliance, my options might be to work for a new, stronger Clean Air Act, or to watch for and submit comment on new proposed standards from EPA that will cover the facility, or submit comment on a permit renewal, or petition EPA to re-evalute the health standards for the chemical being discharged. I probably need to know also what voluntary environmental programs I might urge the facility to participate in.

If the facility is not in compliance, or it appear to be in compliance, but I suspect it has just not been caught, then I need to know who is responsible for enforcement, and who to appeal to if the primary enforcement agency fails to act. If violations are only suspected, then I need to know what observations I must make in order to make a case to the appropriate authorities so they will investigate.

What I need is something that lays out options based on the information that is available.

I take the point of view that, while it is great that there are opportunities for the public to be involved in environmental decision-making and enforcement, we should not forget just how big a task we are setting for the average citizen. Merely providing the opportunity for involvement is not enough. Citizens need help making sense of the data they are given and help with finding ways to use it to improve the quality of their lives.

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