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Right to Know Movement Calls for New U.S. Law

A coalition of non-governmental organizations issued a report in January, 2003, proposing a new U.S. law that would require companies traded on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose the environmental and labor practices of their overseas operations. The International Right to Know coalition, which includes the Sierra Club, Oxfam and Amnesty International, models its proposal on existing U.S. laws, principally the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, or EPCRA, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The EPCRA was passed in 1986, largely in response to the Bhopal disaster of 1984, in which 40 tons of lethal gas leaked from a Union Carbide plant in India and killed thousands of people. The EPCRA requires companies to disclose information about the chemicals they use, store, and release from their facilities, which the Environmental Protection Agency makes publicly available in the Toxics Release Inventory. The disclosure requirements, however, apply only to companiesí U.S. operations. The International Right to Know movement calls for disclosure on overseas operations as well.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, passed in 1977, prohibits U.S. companies from making corrupt payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business. The International Right to Know report cites the law as a success in having virtually halted the bribing of foreign officials by U.S. corporations.

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Written February 19, 2003; Last updated February 19, 2003.


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