Public Still At Risk of Chemical Plant Attack

The Washington Post reported last week that a previously undisclosed study by the Army surgeon general concludes that as many as 2.4 million people are at risk of being killed or injured in a terrorist attack against a U.S. toxic chemical plant in a densely populated area. This shocking number is twice as high as previous government estimates of possible casualties of a worst-case scenario involving terrorist attacks on chemical plants. This report is similar to one the Department of Justice (DOJ) was supposed to submit to Congress by August 2000 on chemical plants' vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks. Because the DOJ missed that deadline, and in light of the events of the September 11th attacks last year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in federal district court charging that DOJ has failed to submit the report to Congress, as required by an amendment to the Clean Air Act. OMB Watch reported on the missed deadline and according to the Washington Post, Bush administration officials have notified Congress that they will not meet an August 5, 2002, deadline for the final report because of inadequate funding. In a recent letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, Greenpeace cites the above-mentioned Army study, the late DOJ study, and EPA's inaction to address the threats that chemical plants pose to the public all as reason for grave concern. In light of the evidence of significant threats, Greenpeace urged Whitman to support legislation (S. 1602) that Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) has introduced that would significantly reduce hazards at chemical plants.
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