Proposed EPA Rule Would Assist Terrorists

Washington, DC, June 1, 2000 – Activist groups will likely post information on the Internet that would help terrorists select targets and maximize fatalities, noted Competitive Enterprise Institute in comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The rule addresses availability of “off-site consequence analysis” (OCA) data.  OCA data is part of “risk management plans” (RMP), which the Clean Air Act mandates that facilities develop to prevent and prepare for potential accidental chemical releases.  The law demands that the EPA make this information available to the public.  The OCA sections detail the possible impacts of an accidental release under worst-case scenario conditions, identifying how many fatalities and injuries a catastrophic release could cause. 

When EPA announced it would post OCA data on the Internet, the FBI, the CIA and other security organizations objected.  They fear that such posting could give terrorists anonymous access to a searchable database for potential targets – enabling them to select the ones that would produce the highest number of fatalities.  Last year when the EPA agreed not to post the information, “environmental advocates” said that they would post it themselves.  Congress then passed legislation requesting that the DOJ and the EPA issue a rule that would minimize security risks associated with the release of the information.  The agencies proposed their rule [Fed. Reg, April 27, 2000, pp. 24834-24848] and are accepting comments until June 8.

“The proposed rule fails to prevent activist groups from posting the sensitive information online,” noted Logomasini.  It makes the information available in reading rooms throughout the nation.  Individuals may review and take notes on 10 files per month.  “Under the rule, EPA will post most of the information online and activist groups will simply have to fill in the blanks after collecting information from reading rooms.  If groups enlist just 1,000 volunteers, they could easily post online all the information EPA has collected in less than 2 months,” said Logomasini.

“If the federal government is truly concerned about public safety, they will have to do better than this rule,” Logomasini continued.  “With many lives at stake, the only solution is to bar Internet posting altogether,” she concluded.

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 or [email protected].