EPA unveils new public-access site

The Environmental Protection Agency has launched a World Wide Web site that pulls together regulatory compliance data from five major manufacturing industries into a searchable public database.

The Sector Facility Indexing Project (es.epa.gov/oeca/sfi/) allows the public to view information about chemical releases, toxic spills and compliance with various environmental laws of 653 companies. The companies include automobile manufacturers, paper makers, petroleum refineries, iron and steel producers, and refiners of nonferrous metals.

The pilot project is the EPA's first attempt to format information from its disparate databases into reports that are understandable to the public. The information available through SFIP comes from a database run by the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) called Integrated Data for Enforcement Analysis (IDEA).

EPA officials, and others who have access to the agency's mainframes, have used IDEA since 1991 to query 17 separate databases. SFIP allows for pre-formatted queries to a few of those databases and returns information in a standard format, said Shhonn Taylor, the Web coordinator for OECA.

In the three years since the EPA began developing SFIP, the project has been controversial largely because the EPA had planned to rate how hazardous a manufacturing facility might be based on the facility's pollution history. While the agency has not completely abandoned its plans to do this, such ratings are not included in this version of SFIP. Meanwhile, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm, Multinational Business Services Inc., is suing the agency to block the project [FCW, Feb. 16].

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