Dear National FOIA Officer,
As hurricane Katrina continues to move through the United States
adversely affecting everyone in its path, Greenpeace would like to
express its concern over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's
(EPA) emergency response to its destructive aftermath. As you
know, Louisiana, Mississippi and the other states in EPA Regions 4,
5 and 6 devastated by hurricane Katrina are also home to hundreds
of petro-chemical plants that manufacture, store and use tons of
highly dangerous substances ranging from gasoline to chlorine and
Beyond a normal release of pollutants, a major storm such as
Katrina can trigger additional hazards posed by these facilities.
This is especially troubling as many facilities are located
adjacent to residential communities, farms, rivers, lakes and
drinking water sources. These hazards may include:
- planned or unplanned release of effluent from settling ponds
and lagoons where chemical waste is stored;
- fires, explosions and other unplanned releases caused by
extreme weather conditions;
- contamination of surface water (rivers, lakes and streams),
ground water and drinking water from flooding and other effluent
- open burning of debris and waste following a storm clean up
that will release unregulated pollutants into the atmosphere and
create large volumes of contaminated ash;
- leaks from thousands of underground storage tanks containing
gasoline and heating oil;
- derailment and leaks from rail cars and other storage vessels
containing highly volatile substances such as chlorine, propane,
ammonia and hydrogen fluoride, which poses catastrophic risks under
normal circumstances - storms and flooding can undermine track beds
and foundations rendering them even more vulnerable to disastrous
releases of deadly chemicals.
Under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act (112r), Superfund
(CERCLA) and the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, these
facilities are required to prevent hazardous releases.
Furthermore, under the Clean Water Act, regulated facilities are
required to have a spill prevention plan and under the Clean Air
Act they are required to have a plan to prevent a catastrophic
release of chemicals.
In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. §
552) and with the regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, we are requesting copies of documents, not limited to but
including all letters, notes, meeting times, places and agendas as
well as other communications to and from chemical industry entities
regarding the following:
1. All materials that describe EPA actions prior to Katrina in
response to the storm to ensure that there were no unregulated
releases of hazardous substances from the petro-chemical industry
located in the path of Katrina.
Please provide copies of all documents including, memos,
letters, alerts, meeting notes and agenda regarding industry
compliance since Katrina became a tropical depression as well
additional documents regarding general policies, alerts and
procedures designed for storm preparation and response by industry
prior to the 2005 hurricane season.
2. All documents regarding EPA consideration or issuance of any
waiver(s) and/or agreement(s) to allow releases of regulated
pollutants into the environment from these plants either before or
during hurricane Katrina's arrival. Also, please include any
documents or communications from petro-chemical facilities
requesting permission to release regulated pollutants into the
3. All documents pertaining to EPA rules and procedures
regarding the open burning of debris or structures damaged during
the hurricane. Please include any documents detailing EPA plans to
monitor the release of dangerous pollutants, such as dioxins and
furans from such unregulated burning.
4. All documents regarding any requests from the
pretro-chemical industry to modify or exceed federal or state
permit requirements before, during or after hurricane Katrina's
arrival in all impacted areas. Also include any and all responses
to these requests from the EPA.
5. The EPA currently suggests that people clean their homes and
boil water before drinking, following a flood or hurricane.
Subsequently, please provide any documents regarding EPA plans to
conduct comprehensive testing of local drinking water (private
wells and public drinking water systems) for toxic chemical
contamination as well as EPA plans for testing the soil of
communities and flood waters that will likely contaminate soil,
ground and surface water.
On behalf of the victims of hurricane Katrina, we would
appreciate a response to this request at your earliest possible
convenience. If all or any part of this request should be denied,
we would also appreciate a written explanation of the reasons for
denial under the Freedom of Information Act. Greenpeace reserves
the right to appeal any denial of this request.
As we are requesting these documents in the public interest, and
we are a non-profit organization, we therefore request that all
fees for copying these materials be waived.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Rick Hind, Legislative Director
Greenpeace Toxics Campaign