Knowing Your Rights

About the author: Cory Wagner joined EPA’s Office of Environmental Information in 2005. He is currently the project manager for the development of the Toxics Release Inventory-Made Easy (TRI-ME) and TRI-MEweb reporting assistance software.

Cory WagnerIndividual rights have certainly been in the news lately. From the Olympic Torch being doused in France in protest of suspected human rights abuses in China, to the Supreme Court reviewing the DC gun ban in light of the Second Amendment, to the continuing struggle to balance an individual’s right to privacy against the safety of the general public in a post-911 world, one can hardly read a newspaper these days without seeing an article about rights. This makes sense as we are a nation built on rights. The rights of the individual are crucial to our way of life and the backbone of democracy.

In 1986, Congress added a new individual right with the passage of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). This act gave local communities access to environmental information about chemical hazards located nearby. You may have wondered “just what is coming out of that smoke stack on that building near my home?”

Well, I currently work in the program that implements part of EPCRA, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Each year, we collect data on releases and transfers of chemicals from industry and make it available to the public. The answer to the question posed above is readily available to you through the use of on-line TRI data tools such as TRI Explorer, Envirofacts, and the electronic Facility Data Report (eFDR). We are continually making efforts to make the TRI information available to you in easy-to-understand formats and as close to the time that we collect it as possible. The TRI program will continue to work hard to ensure that you are always able to exercise your right to know.