Electronic release of dangerous chemical site data challenged

Electronic release of dangerous chemical site data challenged

Fire service organizations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are concerned about national security and the safety of localities that may be threatened by the requirements of an amendment to the 1990 Clean Air Act. They have asked Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner to share with them details concerning how the information in the risk management plans (RMPs) that must be submitted by June 1999 and must be made public will be released. The RMPs include information pertaining to the worst-case scenario involving the accidental re-lease of 140 hazardous substances at national facilities such as chemical storage sites, industrial facilities, public water treatment facilities, gas and electric utilities, and federal government military and energy installations.

The Clean Air Act, amended to require that all RMP information be made public, does not specify how to do this. The EPA had intended to place the information on an Internet Web site that will have no access restrictions. The fire service and government agencies charged with the nation`s security oppose this approach because terrorists can easily gain access to the information if safety mechanisms are not instituted to prevent it. After meeting with the concerned parties, the EPA said it would not place this information on the Internet. Some environmental groups, however, have threatened to obtain the data through the Freedom of Information Act and place it on their Web sites. Congress has been asked to guarantee that the information will be disseminated in a safe and secure manner, thus protecting citizens of communities in which the covered national facilities are located. n

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