EPA to Release Data on Worst Case Scenarios

Washington, DC, July 20, 1999 – “Unless the House of Representatives acts immediately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon release information that essentially offers terrorists a blueprint for targeting and attacking chemical facilities,” observed Angela Logomasini, Director of Risk and Environmental Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

As soon as tomorrow, the EPA could release “risk management plans” from thousands of industrial plants. The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act mandated that facilities submit the plans to the EPA. As part of the plan, facility managers must envision the “worst case scenario” that would result from an accidental, catastrophic chemical release in which none of the plant’s security or mitigation systems work. Plants must detail the effects that this hypothetical release would have on the surrounding neighborhood, including the number of fatalities and injuries. “These plans don’t provide information about real risks. They detail what would happen in an extremely unlikely theoretical worst case, which provides a highly distorted view of the risks instead of providing useful information,” stated Logomasini.

As soon as facilities submitted their plans on June 21, parties petitioned access to this information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) warned the Administration in a letter that EPA had to release the information by July 21 under FOIA, but the Agency says it may hold off until August. The environmental groups want the information because they plan to post it on the Internet in a searchable database that users could access anonymously. The FBI, CIA, and other security experts object to such posting because they contend it would help terrorists rank and select targets based on the number of potential fatalities and injuries. “The Senate passed legislation trying to stop to this maneuver but the House is moving so slowly that they are running up against the clock,” stated Logomasini.

Security specialists suggest making this information available only to local emergency planners or closely monitored requests – a system that works well in New Jersey. This system allows the state to monitor requests for the information to eliminate the danger of terrorists acquiring this information.

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.