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Authors: Susan Rosegrant
Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 1992

Abstract

The prospect of accidents involving toxic chemicals affecting residential communities unaware that such substances were being used at nearby industrial facilities led, in 1986, to legislation calling for the US Environmental Protection Agency to establish a new, computerized information system. The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) would list all facilities in the US using hazardous chemicals, as well as listing the specific types of potential toxins being used. The development of the system spawned concern among chemical-using firms, fearful that, in a climate of heightened worry about environmental issues, information about the use of chemicals would not be evaluated neutrally. At the same time, environmentalists were concerned that the database would not be as widely and easily accessible as they believed appropriate given a community''s "right to know." This case, developed for the Kennedy School''s Program on Strategic Computing, is designed to allow for discussion of the possible designs of such an information system, as well as the social and political implications such a system is likely to have.

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Abstract

The prospect of accidents involving toxic chemicals affecting residential communities unaware that such substances were being used at nearby industrial facilities led, in 1986, to legislation calling for the US Environmental Protection Agency to establish a new, computerized information system. The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) would list all facilities in the US using hazardous chemicals, as well as listing the specific types of potential toxins being used. The development of the system spawned concern among chemical-using firms, fearful that, in a climate of heightened worry about environmental issues, information about the use of chemicals would not be evaluated neutrally. At the same time, environmentalists were concerned that the database would not be as widely and easily accessible as they believed appropriate given a community''s "right to know." This case, developed for the Kennedy School''s Program on Strategic Computing, is designed to allow for discussion of the possible designs of such an information system, as well as the social and political implications such a system is likely to have.

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