Could your town be another Bhopal? That Dec. 2, 1984, chemical leak in India killed thousands of local residents who did not suspect a deadly mass-casualty incident was waiting to descend on them from behind a chemical company fenceline. Congress in 1986 set up the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) to keep such a disaster from happening in the US.
Now EPA has proposed putting the blinders back on thousands of communities that still face the threat of a Bhopal-like incident. A coalition of environmental, labor, and right-to-know groups plan a Dec. 1, 2005, telephone press conference to announce the names of almost 1,000 communities that will lose all numerical information about local chemical hazards. Thousands more will lose partial information.
The coalition, coordinated by nonprofit groups including OMB Watch, National Environmental Trust, and US PIRG, will release lists of specific communities facing loss of information, as well as a state-by-state analysis of the EPA proposal's harmful impact on emergency preparedness and homeland security.
Firefighters, police officers, and other first responders to toxic releases, hazmat spills, and oil spills are among the biggest users of TRI information. Representatives of first-responder groups will take part in the telephone press conference and be available for questions afterwards. Also, US PIRG will simultaneously hold a series of state-level press briefings to put reporters in touch with local hazmat responders and right-to-know groups.
HOOKUP: The telephone press conference will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 PM EST, Thursday, December 1, 2005. Call 800-853-3895, code "EPA.TRI." It is open to credentialed media. Press Contact: Tony Iallonardo, 202-887-8855. Data and maps will be available on the web on Dec. 1 at Noon. Embargoed copies are available to media in advance by calling Tony Iallonardo.
SOURCES AT PRESS CONFERENCE:
Tom Natan, Ph.D., chemical engineer and NET Research Director (moderator).
Alan Finkelstein, Assistant Fire Marshall, Strongsville, Ohio, and Chair, Emergency Response, Cuyahoga County Emergency Planning Committee.
Idell Hansen, Director, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction, Washington State Department of Ecology.
Michael R. Harbut, M.D., M.P.H., Chief, Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Royal Oak, MI.
Richard Prete, Maintenance Mechanic and Health and Safety Advisor, United Steel Workers (11th District).
Reverend Fred Withers, Rubbertown Emergency Action (REACT), Louisville, KY.