This semester, I’ve been doing some work with environmental law research and in so doing I’ve gained some familiarity with the EPA website. Each time I visit the website, I am struck by the massive amount of data it provides – especially when it comes to enforcement and compliance information. It would take several pages to write a comprehensive overview of all of the databases provided by the EPA, but I thought I would highlight two of my favorites.
Envirofacts is a site that provides access into several EPA databases, including the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) database , the Radiation Information Database, the Permit Compliance System, and many many more. Using Envirofacts, you can select a location and find out what types of environmental issues might be affecting the area. For example, I typed in my zip code and found that there are 102 facilities in my county that have reported toxic releases, 4,639 facilities that have reported hazardous waste activities and 5 potential hazardous waste sites that are part of Superfund. Wow! If I had the time and inclination, I could get information about each of the facilities, including maps and contact information. Envirofacts can also generate maps with graphical representations of environmental information for any location in the United States.
While Envirofacts is a great place to learn about locations, ECHO (Enforcement and Compliance History Online) is a great place to learn about companies and their facilities. Using ECHO, you can see whether an EPA regulated facility has had compliance inspections, whether they had violations and whether there were any enforcement actions against them. For example, I typed in Glaxo Smith Kline and found 6 facilities. Each facility had a report listing facility characteristics, permit information, compliance data, and information about violations and enforcement actions. It also listed the related statutes and links to administrative decisions on any enforcement.
ECHO is definitely a great place to find company compliance information. Of course, as with most data, it is always good to double-check its accuracy. I found this 2003 article in an ABA newsletter, shortly after ECHO’s launch, stating that several facility listings contained inaccurate information. However, I was unable to find more recent critiques, so it seems likely that these inaccuracies have since been corrected.