“Would You Want Detailed Information About Chemical Plants In Your Hometown Publicized?”

“Would You Want Detailed Information About Chemical Plants In Your Hometown Publicized?”

Environmental Risk Expert Warns of Dangers of Right to Know Law
January 09, 2002

Washington, D.C., January 10, 2002-“Blatant examples of the problems associated with one of the nation’s key right to know laws are everywhere,” says Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


Citing a recent news story published in one of the largest daily newspapers in the country, Logomasini says reporters--under the right to know law--have demonstrated how easy it is to obtain information that terrorists could use to plan an attack on industrial facilities.  The government-supplied data contains details on the type of chemicals stored in facilities around the country, the amounts stored, and the number of people that could be killed or harmed from an accidental release or terrorist attack. 


“I certainly would not want this information publicly available on facilities in my neighborhood,” remarked Logomasini.  The five plants highlighted in the article are located in Detroit; Charleston, W.V.; South Kearney, N.J.; Philadelphia; and the southern California counties of Los Angeles and Orange.  


Both the U.S. Senate and House held hearings late last year to reassess the safety of chemical and industrial facilities in light of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and Senate hearings on the issue are expected to continue this year when Congress reconvenes.  Amendments to the 1990 Clean Air Act created the “right to know” law, which requires the federal government to publicly disclose sensitive information about industrial facilities around the country.  Fifteen-thousand facilities have provided this information to the EPA, which made it publicly available in full starting last year.


Logomasini points out, that while the data was pulled from the agency web page after 9/11, the Environmental Protection Agency is still making this information publicly available in reading rooms across the country, even as the rest of the federal government is scrambling to limit the tools and information to which potential terrorists have access.  Environmental groups have posted summaries of the data online.

“Since September 11, we believe the case is even stronger to reform this ‘right to know’ law,” she adds.  “This information is only useful to groups that want to scare the public about chemical risks, or those who might use it for selecting targets.  Instead of making this kind of information available to the public, we believe a better and more secure approach would be for local emergency planners to obtain the information.  Local officials could then use the information for emergency planning and response as well as to educate the community.”

For Interviews With Ms. Logomasini, please contact Jody Clarke or Judy Kent at 202.331.1010.

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.  For more information about CEI, visit our website at www.cei.org.