Daily News Archive
From March 27, 2001

Public Access to Chemical Data Denied by EPA

A New York Times article reported today that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rescinded a Clinton administration proposal to increase public access to information about the potential consequences of chemical plant accidents.

The proposal would have allowed individuals to visit reading rooms and review read-only risk management plans on computer systems. Availability of this information, argued advocates of the dissemination of worst-case scenarios submitted by chemical plant operators, would help communities plan for disasters like industrial explosions.

Congress, industry officials and law enforcement authorities have countered that the information is too sensitive and could be used by terrorists to plot attacks. EPA officials stated that they wanted to discuss "national security concerns" of the proposal with the Justice Department.

Rick Hind, Legislative Director of the Greenpeace Toxics Campaign, commented, "It is quite ominous coming from an EPA head who slashed two-thirds of the chemicals that New Jersey right-to-know regulates, " referring to Christine Todd Whitman's removal of more than 1,000 hazardous industrial chemicals from New Jersey's right-to-know list of those subject state inspection while she was governor.

Presently, members of the public can arrange to visit federal document reading rooms and review risk management plans for plants in their immediate area, and can examine a limit of 10 plans of plants outside of their communities per month.