19 November 2002 23:13 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (CNI)--The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said Tuesday it has no major concerns over plans by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to post environmental compliance records on a new Internet site starting tomorrow.
Jamie Conrad, an attorney with the Arlington, Virginia-based ACC, told CNI today: "Our view is that all the information [to be posted by EPA] is publicly available information, and so as long as the information is accurate we don't know that we'd have a problem with it."
The EPA announced yesterday that it will launch a pilot program tomorrow to provide public access on the Internet to environmental compliance records on more than 800 000 facilities nationwide, including thousands of chemicals production and storage sites.
The prototype EPA Web site, called Echo for "Enforcement and Compliance History Online," will draw together in one resource a variety of environmental compliance data from several federal monitoring and enforcement programs.
ACC's Conrad said: "If we do have a concern with this - and we don't know that we do - it is not with the idea that this information is public, because it already is public. But we would want to ensure that the information presented on Echo is accurate, clear and complete. We'd also want to see if the information is presented in a balanced manner or is juxtaposed in some fashion to create a misleading context."
Conrad praised the EPA for the manner in which the Echo program has been developed and presented, saying: "They have learned from the past, that with a major site like this it is important to do a pilot test, take comments from the public and industry, and have a correction process. We commend the EPA for the process they have taken in rolling this out."
Conrad also said the ACC did not see information to be presented by the Echo system as posing security problems for chemicals producers in the wake of last year's terrorist attacks against the US. "This is only compliance information, inspection and enforcement data," Conrad noted, "not worst case scenario or TRI data."
Last year US federal and state security officials joined chemicals manufacturers in opposing the EPA's plans to post on the Internet details of chemicals manufacturers' "worst case" scenarios, also known as off-site consequence analyses (OCA). The OCA data projected the worst possible consequences in terms of lives lost and property damaged by the total release of a given chemical facility's total hazardous substances capacity. Even prior to the 11 September terrorist attacks last year, US security officials saw the OCA data as an inviting target list for terrorists. EPA's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) includes data about the level of toxic emissions by chemicals and other industrial production sites.
Conrad said ACC and its member firms would review the Echo site over the 60-day comment period provided by EPA to ensure that the data presented is accurate and complete.
The ACC's nearly 200 member firms account for some 90% of US industrial chemicals production capacity.
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