AGENCIES:

Obama admin launches Web sites to boost transparency

A trio of federal agencies has launched new Web sites to comply with President Obama's Open Government directive.

U.S. EPA posted a new Web site that links to several of its databases on water quality, toxic releases and enforcement activity; the Interior Department has its own site that encourages public participation and talks about transparency; and the Energy Department is encouraging a "national conversation on energy."

Obama announced the Open Government directive in December in an attempt to increase transparency within federal agencies.

The directive requires that by April 7, each federal agency must develop an "Open Government Plan" that includes in downloadable form "high-value information," as well as high-value information that is not yet publicly available and specific target dates for making that material public. The agencies must also include the public in their plan development.

EPA's new Web site includes links to databases on the Chesapeake Bay water quality program, toxicological information on more than 300 chemicals, the Toxics Release Inventory, and a new mapping tool that shows facilities where EPA concluded enforcement actions between 2008 and 2009.

Site users can search by neighborhood for information on air and water quality, brownfields and other environmental factors. The public has until March 19 to comment on the Web site and offer suggestions

EPA also discusses its ongoing efforts to give the public the ability to search priority rules by rule phase, topic, and effect on institutions and communities.

The Interior Department's Web site, launched last week, offers similar data, including data sets on seven types of information, such as federal national recreation sites, and human- and lightning-caused fires.

It also links to Freedom of Information Act details and asks for comments on how the department can improve its FOIA process.

The Energy Department's Web site also includes the data sets on energy-related scientific projects that DOE and other research facilities have worked on since 1995, as well as historical and current research from 1948.

DOE's site includes contact information and a timeline of agency efforts so far to increase transparency and make more information public. It also provides links to social networking media sites including YouTube, Flickr, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu's Facebook page, where he has more than 10,000 fans.

The new Web sites are one part of a broader effort to increase transparency within the federal government. Last month, agencies posted hundreds of databases onto the federal data.gov site as part of a requirement to post at least three "high value" data sets.

Overall, about 300 new data sets were uploaded to the site, with 175 labeled high value, according to the government watchdog group OMB Watch.

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