Openness: The Best Defense Against Bioterrorism

The National Research Council (NRC) concluded, in a recent report on biochemical research and bioterrorism safeguards, that an open and free exchange of scientific research and ideas is an important component of efforts to protect the country from a biochemical attack or accident. Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences recommends several measures to reduce the risk of an attack using biological weapons or an accident involving biological agents and technology.

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Collins' Revised Chemical Security Bill: An Improving Grade

Shortly before Congress broke for recess in December, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, introduced the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005 (S. 2145). The bill, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Carl Levin (D-MI), is a significant improvement over the draft bill previously evaluated by OMB Watch (see Failing Grade on Chemical Security, The OMB Watcher [Dec. 13, 2005]), but still fails to require reporting on the use of safer technologies.

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Failing Grade on Chemical Security

As the former 9/11 Commission issued failing grades on the government's preparedness for another terrorist attack, a new draft of chemical security legislation is being circulated by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The bill establishes authority for the Department of Homeland Security to regulate the security plans of U.S. chemical plants. Unfortunately, if its current language remains, the bill will fail to make communities safer from either terrorist attacks or chemical accidents.

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Toxic Chemical Sites in New Orleans

This page contains major sites that store, use, or produce large quantities of toxic chemicals within Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes. OMB Watch created this page by merging four Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) databases, which OMB Watch makes publicly available through its project RTK NET (the Right-To-Know Network).

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Cities Tackle Chemical Transportation Security

When a freight train accident took eight lives in South Carolina earlier this year because of unsafe and uninspected train cars carrying toxic materials, it heightened concerns about chemical security in our trains and trucks. Cities across the nation have begun addressing serious deficiencies on this homeland security issue because the federal government has done little. Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, and Baltimore are all considering legislation to mitigate the risks of shipping hazardous materials through their heavily populated centers.

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Chemical Security Legislation to Address Transport Issues Introduced

Sen. Joseph Biden, Jr. (D-DE) introduced a comprehensive chemical security bill addressing shipments of hazardous materials entitled "The Hazardous Materials Vulnerability Reduction Act of 2005" (S. 1256) on July 16. The bill, which comes after a flurry of recent legislative activity at the local level on chemical shipment security, promotes greater cooperation between agencies, as well as more input from state and local officials in securing hazardous chemicals.

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OMB Watch Wins in Court for Access to Risk Management Data

After almost four years of silence, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released updated information on Risk Management Plans (RMPs) filed by facilities with large quantities of hazardous chemicals onsite, in order to inform communities about the risks. The agency released the information to OMB Watch after the organization sued EPA for failing to respond to its request filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OMB Watch has posted the executive summaries of the RMPs on its Right to Know Network website.

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Congressional Report Uncovers Chemical Security Risks Throughout the Country

An analysis prepared for Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reveals that chemical plants endanger millions of Americans in every state. The report demonstrates widespread problems with chemical security and highlights the need for a national policy that will reduce these risks.

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Past Government Secrecy Takes its Toll on Steelworkers

Proponents of government secrecy would do well to consider the story of Bethlehem Steel when pushing for greater secrecy in the name of homeland security. The federal government admitted in 2000, that it had knowingly exposed thousands of workers in steel mills to radiation without any protection or warning during the 1940s and 50s. The workers, kept in the dark about the exposure because of national security concerns, have paid for years -- at times with their very lives.

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Citizens Protest New Jersey's Proposed Homeland Security Secrecy

Workers and environmentalists picketed outside the office of New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey on June 22 to protest proposed changes to the state's Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Harvey has proposed exempting various facilities from the public records law, including chemical plants, in the interest of homeland security. Protesters expressed concern that the new exemptions are too broad and would conceal from the public important information about toxins in their communities.

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