Chemical Plant Data Can Reveal Local Stories

November 11, 2015

A disturbing story of poor chemical company compliance with environmental and safety rules was released October 22, 2015, by a watchdog group. It could have — and perhaps should have — been done by a news publication. And it shows the use journalists could make of several key databases.

The report, "Blowing Smoke," was produced by the Center for Effective Government, which has long been a pioneer in investigative work using environmental databases.

In a nutshell, the report concludes: "Chemical companies say 'trust us,' but environmental and workplace safety violations belie their rhetoric."

First, read the report here. Then start exploring the databases. There are local stories galore for those who drill down.

One of the two key databases is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO). It includes inspection and enforcement data from most of EPA's regulatory programs, not just those affecting chemical companies.

The other key database — less noted by environmental reporters — is maintained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It is searchable online here. Or you can download datasets here.  Also good are the overviews available here and here.

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