On Friday, February 6, 2009, the federal government annouced sweeping changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). The proposed changes are incorporated into Budget Bill C-10. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper will provide a summary of the changes shortly, and will make the NWPA the subject of next week's Waterkeeper.ca Weekly and Living at the Barricades.
US President Barack Obama and his administration began the process of removing restrictions on information sharing and the use of factual evidence within days of taking office.
On January 21st, 2009, The White House issued a memorandum instructing all federal agencies to begin responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with full access to information whenever possible. “In the face of doubt,” the memo states, “openness prevails."
This directive marks a departure from the Bush administration's existing policy, issued by John Ashcroft shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. Under the previous government, agencies were ordered to examine all possible ways to deny FOIA requests before releasing any information. The new order also directs the Office of Management and Budget to work with agencies at all levels to help increase the electronic dissemination of information through the use of new technologies.
“A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.”
Newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson also laid out her plans for the future of the environmental watchdog. In her first memorandum to all employees January 23, 2009, Jackson stated that the “EPA should once again be the workplace of choice for veteran public servants and also talented young people beginning careers in environmental protection – just as it was for me when I first joined EPA shortly after graduate school.”
During the Bush years, the EPA was frequently directed to either discard evidence that disagreed with White House messaging, or prevent historical data from being shared. In some cases, employees were told to refuse to disclose information to congressional investigators, ignore previous presidential orders, and reduce the enforcement of environmental crimes.
“The EPA must follow the rule of law,” Jackson says. “Respect for Congressional mandates and judicial decisions is the hallmark of a principled regulatory agency. [The] EPA cannot turn a blind eye to the court’s decision or procrastinate in complying.”
Jackson has pledged, “Science must be the backbone for EPA programs.” Her new directives will reintroduce expert opinions from EPA specialists and independent advisors. Investigations and reports will reflect the results of the data collected, and not conform to a desired outcome.
The EPA head also echoed Obama’s commitment to openness and transparency, stating that the EPA will communicate openly with “everyone from the environmentalists to those we regulate… The door is open to all [so] there is no doubt why we are acting and how we arrived at our decisions.”
Listen to Living at the Barricades.
Obama's hope: Is the United States putting Canada to shame? (Radio Show, Jan. 3, 2009)
As the US moves to restore openness and accountability for its citizens, Canada continues to restrict access to information and to roll back environmental protections. The contrast between the two country’s policies is the subject of this week’s Living at the Barricades. The show includes excerpts from Obama's Inaugural Address, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s speech at ideaCity03.
Music on this week's show
Birds - Dawn Blythe and Dave Clark
Don't let me Down - The Beatles
Help - The Beatles
Here Comes the Sun - The Beatles
All Things Must Pass - George Harrison