STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - June 05, 2002) [Page: S5043]
By Mr. BOND:
S. 2579. A bill to amend the Clean Air Act to limit access to off-site consequences analysis information in order to reduce the risk of criminal release from stationary sources, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Mr. BOND. Madam President, today I am introducing a bill to help protect communities in Missouri and across the Nation from terrorist attack. Chemical plants in communities across America are perfect terrorist targets. Right now, the U.S. Government provides a virtual blueprint for attacks on these facilities to any member of the public who requests the information--or any terrorists frankly. The Community Protection From Chemical Terrorism Act will help protect communities from terrorists who would use sensitive information made public to destroy those communities.
There are 15,000 chemical facilities across the country. Facilities store and use potentially dangerous chemicals to make consumer products and keep us healthy. Chlorine, for example, is used by every family to whiten and brighten our clothes. Every child, every senior person, every family across America is able to drink clean water and avoid getting sick because of chlorine treatment.
However, we know that chlorine is a dangerous chemical if misused or abused. According to EPA, at least 123 plants each keep amounts of chemicals that if released, could form deadly vapor clouds that would put more than one million people in danger. A plant outside of Detroit projects that a rupture of one of its 90-ton rail cars of chlorine could endanger three million people. Even worse, an accident at a New Jersey plant in suburban New York City could cover a 14 mile radius affecting 12 million people.
Missouri is not spared from these dangers. In the Kansas City metropolitan area alone, there are over 100 plants filing reports to EPA on their potential chemical accidents.
I am holding back on the names and addresses of these facilities, but their identity and location is no secret to those who want to look. In fact, the law currently requires EPA to make this information available to the public. You do not even have to look, because the newspapers are publishing this information. Here is the front page of the Kansas City Star with a story ``Chemical Plants Ordered to Prepare for the Worst.'' The story describes how information on worst-case scenario accidents is publicly available to anyone who bothers to look.
The San Francisco Chronicle published a story entitled ``If All Hell Broke Loose.'' Here you see the newspaper not only describes the chemical facilities in Northern California, but provides a map of the location of the facilities and the radius of potential damage from a toxic release. This newspaper published not only the names and addresses of the facilities, but drew a map with their location and
the radius of destruction from a release. It helps the terrorists by showing just what radius of death and destruction would occur. This is the front page of a newspaper that is out there for anybody who wants to make a terrorist strike in San Francisco. This is published in May of 1999. I wonder, after September 11, they would still be so helpful.[Page: S5044]
The reason this is a problem is that this is exactly the type of information terrorists would use to plan and carry-out an attack. Families in suburban San Francisco and across the country have a bulls eye on their communities because terrorists can use this publicly available information to target their attacks.
By law, the government requires chemical facilities to report to the government the hazardous chemicals they have on site and then predict the worst-case scenario for an accident with those chemicals. These Offsite Consequence Analysis or OCA reports include the type of chemical, the conditions under which a worst-case accident would occur, the distance a toxic cloud of chemicals might travel, the environmental or public receptors such as hospitals, schools or national parks in danger's way, and the number of people who would be harmed by an attack.
According to the FBI, this publicly available chemical facility information provides a ``blueprint for potential terrorist attack.'' A DOJ report analyzing the threat from terrorists abusing OCA information says:
The distance that a toxic cloud might travel, the numbers of people who might be harmed, and the environmental or public receptors that could be affected are precisely the types of factors that a terrorist weighs when planning an attack.
Chemical facilities are exactly the type of target terrorists would attack to create mayhem and destruction. According to DOJ:
Certain types of facilities that are required to submit OCA information are preferred terrorist targets. Many such facilities exist in well-populated areas, where a chemical release could result in mass casualties and would result in widespread destruction.
In a chilling confirmation of this, copies of U.S. chemical trade publications were found in one of the cave holes where Osama bin Laden had hidden. They found it with the other rat infestations in December.
Terrorists would have little problem searching through government collected OCA. According to DOJ, this data provides ``one-stop shopping for refined targeting information, allowing terrorists or other criminals to select the best targets from among the 15,000 chemical facilities that have submitted OCA data.'' Indeed, accessing this publicly available information is easy. In a single afternoon, my staff was able to search and find the top ten facilities across my home state of Missouri where terrorist attacks would produce the greatest number of casualties. By the end of the day, my staff had the names of the facilities, their street address, the name of the vulnerable chemicals, the conditions under which a worst-case scenario release would occur, the radius of harm caused by the attack, any safety or mitigation measures plants might use to control the release, and the number of people in the affected area who could be hurt.
It was shocking to me that Federal law makes information which terrorists could use to destroy communities available to any member of the public.
The argument goes that communities want to know about dangerous chemicals used and stored in their neighborhoods. That is a legitimate desire. The law further intends that members of the public use this information to pressure chemical facilities to remove dangerous chemicals or change their ways so that neighboring communities are not in danger from an accidental release. That also is a very legitimate concern.
Unfortunately, the terrorist attacks of September 11th show us that times are not so simple anymore. The threat from terrorist attack now outweighs the benefits of making this information public. We should be concerned about chemical facilities in our communities. However, our greatest concern must be protecting those communities from terrorist attack.
In a different time, the environmental policy concerns of making worst-case scenario chemical accidental data available to the public might have outweighed the security threats to our communities. Sadly, those times have passed. According to the Department of Justice, OCA worst-case scenario data continues to present a security threat. The threat from terrorists using OCA worst-case scenario data is even greater after the September 11th terrorist attacks. DOJ believes that legislation is necessary to further limit public access to dangerous OCA information.
Unfortunately, the current law does not protect our communities from terrorist attack. Congress amended the law concerning OCA information in 1999. That legislation, entitled the Chemical Safety Information and Site Security Act reversed EPA plans to post OCA information on the Internet. However, the law left the task of establishing specific regulations for publicizing OCA information to EPA and DOJ. Admittedly, the last administration did its work before the terrorist attacks of September 11th. It was a different time then. A legitimate argument was made that environmental policy concerns outweighed the need to protect communities from terrorist attacks.
However, even the restrictions EPA and DOJ devised to limit access to sensitive OCA information were quickly overcome by advocacy groups. This story in the New York Times describes how environmental advocates put OCA disaster data on the Internet. The caption here is, ``Getting around a law intended to avoid helping terrorists.'' My staff used one of these sites to help them determine the communities in Missouri most at risk from a terrorist attack. This is not fair to the communities that wish to avoid terrorist attacks. Further restrictions are necessary to protect our communities from terrorist attack.
The legislation I propose today strikes the best balance between allowing the public to monitor the actions of the chemical industry and protecting individual communities from terrorist attack. Official users engaged in official protection activities will have unrestricted access to OCA information. However, my bill will allow members of the public to view OCA data on chemical facilities without knowing their specific name and location. This will allow advocates to continue watching and pressuring the chemical industry at-large to make safety improvements without placing specific communities at risk of terrorist attack. For those environmental advocates that wish to play a role in a given community, this legislation specifically expands local emergency planning committees to include members of local and national environmental organizations. I recognize that these groups have a role to play in making our communities safer and hope they will accept this invitation to join in formal community protection activities.
Communities have much to fear from terrorist attack. According to DOJ, the risk of terrorists attempting in the foreseeable future to cause an industrial chemical release is both real and credible. We must not help those terrorists who want to destroy our communities. I urge my colleagues to support the Community Protection From Terrorism Act and look forward to working with you on its passage.
I ask unanimous consent that the bill be appropriately referred.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.