Washington, DC, April 26 – "Congress scored only a limited victory for public safety by ensuring that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not post sensitive information on the Internet," noted CEI’s Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy. Initially, the EPA planned an Internet posting on chemicals that specific industrial plants use and the amount of harm that would result in the case of a catastrophic accidental release. That database could have been used by terrorists or other criminals to conduct attacks that would cause the largest number of deaths.
"However, the new regulations don’t mean we are completely out of the woods. While terrorists may not be able to have easy, anonymous access to the information, they will still have access." According to the rule, anyone can view the information in public reading rooms after someone in the reading room "views" a person’s identification. There is no mandate to record who visited. "Simply showing ID won’t help identify those who misuse the information if we don’t keep records," Logomasini said. "Finally, the rule does not even prevent others from posting the information online; it only makes it difficult to assemble," she concluded.
The EPA regulations address the Clean Air Act’s requirement that 66,000 industrial plants provide, and the EPA make publicly available, "worst case scenario" data. The data must include the potential impacts of a catastrophic accidental chemical release, including the number of fatalities. The EPA initially proposed posting the information on the Internet, until FBI officials raised security concerns. Security officials feared that terrorists would have easy access to an anonymous, searchable database of potential targets and fatality figures.
Last year, when the information was due for release, Congress passed a law that demanded that the EPA draft regulations to ensure that the information could not be used in a way that undermines public safety.
CEI, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group founded in 1984, is dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. For more information, please contact Emily McGee, director of media relations, at 202-331-1010, ext. 209.