United States

The United States has one of the most advanced legal and institutional systems in the world that seeks to ensure access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters. At the national level, the specific mechanisms are found in federal statutes and regulations; generally speaking, there is no explicit constitutional right of access to information, participation, or justice. At the state and local level, innovative approaches provide models that may be extended to other states or scaled-up for federal programs. A strong NGO sector facilitates public participation in decision-making and develops information in user-friendly formats. Technology such as the Internet is widely available and used regularly to solicit public input and disseminate data and ideas. Finally, environmental education is increasingly incorporated into primary and secondary school curricula. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a number of steps have been taken to limit public access to information. It remains to be seen whether this narrowing of access is temporary or permanent, bona fide or opportunistic.