Are Chemical Accidents a Trade Secret?

Greenpeace and the Working Group on Community Right to Know \r\nreleased previously unpublished catastrophic chemical accident\r\nscenarios prepared by 50 chemical companies in Louisiana.

Greenpeace and the Working Group on Community Right to Know (CRTK) released previously unpublished catastrophic chemical accident scenarios prepared by 50 chemical companies in Louisiana.

After the chemical companies lobbied Congress in 1999 to restrict public release of these accident scenarios, the information has not been readily available until now.

The company data shows that more than 1 million people are at risk from only one worst-case scenario chemical accident, according to Greenpeace.

Between 1987 and 1994, more than 3,000 chemical accidents were reported in the United States of more than 10,000 pounds of hazardous material.

People that live and work as far as 25 miles from dozens of chemical plants such as Dow, Georgia Gulf, Vulcan and Dupont are at risk of accidents, according to Greenpeace and the Working Group on CRTK.

The groups released data on 50 danger zones that blanket a corridor 25 miles wide from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and the Lake Charles area in southwest Louisiana.

Thirty-two of the 50 facilities investigated have reported accidents in the last eight years.

These accidents have included worker injuries, evacuations, "shelter in place" emergency procedures and millions of dollars in property damage.

Greenpeace and the Working Group on CRTK collected this data from the EPA reading room in Washington, D.C.

The data released is for companies reporting worst case scenarios that could put 100,000 or more people at risk.

The 1984 Union Carbide chemical leak in Bhopal, India, killed more than 2,000 people and injured more than 100,000.

This accident, the largest in history, prompted accident prevention provisions in 1990 Clean Air Act.

Chemical companies, however, claimed terrorists could use these provisions to attack the United States and as a result Congress has limited the public''s access to the information.

"Although no chemical company has ever been the target of terrorists, the public is not allowed to photocopy these reports and can only view 10 reports each month," said a Greenpeace representative.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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