Faculty Publications


Historical evolution of community right to know: implications on the development and practice of public relations.

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Bernardo Heisler Motta

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The purpose of this research is to explore the historical development of right to know in the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (EPCRA) as an example of “legislation for revelation” approach to public policy and its influence on risk communication. Following a historiography approach based on identifying primary sources, contextualizing, interpreting, and narrating both legal and academic literature, this study traces briefly the origins of the ideological concept of the public‘s right to know, the historical development of the right-to-know concept in EPCRA, and ending with the effects of EPCRA in the late 20th and early 21st century, analytically observing how the legislation generated opportunities for the field of public relations. Several major findings include: (1) the right to know in EPCRA cannot be traced to one single origin; (2) EPCRA‘s unique characteristics were an effort to experiment with the right to know as a new approach to policymaking; and (3) although full of loopholes and being targeted by opponents, EPCRA seems to have partially achieved its main goals of reactivating and boosting local and state legislations, creating a database on the release of toxic materials, reducing the use of toxic and hazardous materials in general, and allowing citizens, scientists, and private organizations to participate in the decision making on such issues. This study is important to public relations because the enforcement and success of the right-to-know policies depend almost solely in the ability of the public to receive, understand, process, use, and distribute information.


Abstract only. Also published in the IHPRC 2010 Proceedings, pp. 276-297. Full text available through access provided by publisher.


International History of Public Relations Conference