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Bliley Statement on Chemical Disaster Scenarios

Source: U.S. House of Representatives Website

Bliley Statement on Chemical Disaster Scenarios

May 19, 1999

Contact: Eric Wohlschlegel, Peter Sheffield
(202) 225-5735

WASHINGTON (May 19) - Today, in a hearing before the Health and Environment Subcommittee, House Commerce Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Tom Bliley (R-VA) is scheduled to deliver the following statement on H.R.1790, the Chemical Safety Information and Site Security Act of 1999, legislation proposed by the Administration to address the Internet posting of chemical "worst-case" scenario chemical release data:

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing on the Administration's proposal to address the national security concerns that would result if we do not act by June 21st to stop widespread posting of electronic worst-case scenario chemical release data.

"I first raised this issue last September, when the June 21st deadline for filing the worst-case scenarios was nine months away. In October, EPA agreed that posting this information on the Internet raised national security concerns and that EPA would not put worst-case scenarios on its own website. EPA was silent about giving out the electronic database to third parties. In February, before this subcommittee, EPA said that it opposed third parties having the worst-case scenario information in electronic format. EPA also said that it would solve that problem. Finally, some 12 days ago, the Administration proposed a solution, and I introduced that proposal by request. "The Administration's proposal seeks to prevent the widespread circulation of electronic worst-case scenarios data. EPA, FBI and DOJ all agree that would pose a threat to national security. The proposal also seeks to ensure that local officials have the risk information they need to plan and protect citizens, and that individuals have access to information concerning the risks associated with local chemical facilities.

"Like many legislative proposals, however, there are some issues that require fine tuning. For example, we must ensure that citizens who perform public duties, such volunteer firefighters and the LEPC members, have access to the data they need. The criminal liability provision of this bill need careful review. The Committee must examine potential restrictions on library materials. These flaws can and should be fixed, let us work together to address these issues.

"Let me stress that no one here is advocating that we keep the worst-case scenario information locked up or away from those communities nearby chemical facilities. I, for one, certainly support making sure that these communities have access to all information about the risks associated with their facilities. But we also must ensure that the way this information is provided does not end up harming the very people that Congress intended to protect. While no plan is foolproof, we certainly shouldn't do anything to make it easier for those who want to harm our nation and our neighbors.

"Because we can achieve both of these goals without sacrificing the other, I believe we must achieve both. The penalty for inaction is that, on June 21st, our national security will be compromised by the release of a national, electronic targeting tool available for use by terrorists from anywhere in the world."

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