09 October 2001 22:45 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Tuesday it will "consider" a chemical industry request to temporarily halt public access to "worst-case" chemical plant accident data.
An EPA official said today that in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the US, the agency will "take under advisement" a request by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to temporarily halt public access to nearly 70 worst-case data reading rooms across the country.
The reading rooms contain detailed information on catastrophic off-site consequences to worst-case accidents at more than 15 000 US chemical production or storage sites.
But EPA emphasised that it has no plans to close any of the reading rooms.
The ACC request is "something we will certainly take under advisement," said an EPA official.
In a 3 October letter to EPA administrator Christie Whitman, ACC president Fred Webber said EPA should take "immediate action to temporarily prevent access to off-site consequence analysis data collected as a part of the agency's risk management plan."
He added: "In light of recent events, we believe it would be prudent if the agency reviewed the system by which this information is made available to ensure that all that can be done to protect it from being misused is, in fact, being done.,"
However, the EPA official said there are "extra layers of protection in place" at the approximately 70 reading rooms, where the worst-case scenario data in available to the public on a restricted basis under the supervision of EPA and the Department of Justice.
Protective measures such as requiring visitors to sign in and limiting how many scenarios a person can view prompted EPA's decision to keep the reading rooms open, he said.
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