Dishing the Dirt

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WASHINGTON, DC: It's not the strongest warning imaginable: If you pollute, you get posted. But this is what the Environmental Protection Agency has told manufacturers, as part of a drive to give the public access to corporations' environmental records via the Internet. Data for hundreds of the worst polluters in the country will be posted on the EPA's website, and the Agency hopes this will encourage industry to regulate itself.

But will it? Manufacturers in major industries targeted by the EPA paper, metal, oil and automobiles are desperate to stop the information going online. They claim the statistics will confuse the public and unnecessarily scare people who live close to the factories. Here's another scary thought: Could the EPA be abdicating its responsibility to the environment by throwing it all over to a supposedly active online community?