Using information disclosure to achieve policy goals: Toxics release inventory & shale gas fracking

The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy has announced a panel discussion “Using Information Disclosure to Achieve Policy Goals: How Experience with the Toxics Release Inventory Can Inform Action on Shale Gas Fracking.”

The federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is the premier national example of a non-regulatory environmental policy, and it illustrates well both the potential and limitations of using information disclosure to achieve policy goals. The TRI was adopted in 1986 as an amendment to the federal Superfund law, and since 1988 we have had annual reports on the release of over 650 toxic chemicals by some 20,000 industrial facilities around the nation. By most accounts, the disclosure of this information has had a remarkable impact on environmental performance of industry, with over a 60 percent decrease over time in the release of toxic chemicals by those facilities governed by the law. However, in our book Coming Clean: Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance (MIT Press 2011, written with Mark Stephan and Troy D. Abel), we found that facility performance varied widely, with some facilities significantly decreasing their release of chemicals and also the risk associated with chemical releases while others moved in the opposite direction. We sought to learn more about the potential for reliance on information disclosure as a policy strategy and also its limitations. This presentation summarizes the findings of Coming Clean, and applies the lessons of the TRI program to the emerging concern over natural gas fracking. How might the disclosure of information about use of chemicals during the fracking process and their health and environmental risks alert the public and policymakers to important aspects of the process and guide development of local, state, and federal policy on fracking? What is the best way to design such an information disclosure policy so that it can succeed in educating the public about those risks while not imposing excessive or unreasonable burdens on industry?

  • Date:  4 December 2013
  • Time:  10-11:30am
  • Location:  Annenberg Auditorium, 1120 Weill Hall
  • Panelists:   Michael E. Kraft, Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and Author of Coming Clean: Information Disclosure and Environmental Performance; Christopher Borick, Director, Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion
  • Moderator:  Barry Rabe, Director, Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP)

For more information, visit the CLOSUP web site.

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