Bhopal in the Bayou, Are Chemical Accidents a Trade Secret?

July 6, 2010

Environmental groups release unpublished accident scenario reports

Greenpeace and the Working Group on

Community Right to Know (CRTK) released today, previously
unpublished

catastrophic chemical accident scenarios prepared by 50
chemical

companies in Louisiana. After the chemical company lobbied
Congress in

1999 to restrict public release of these accident scenarios,
the

information has not been readily available until today. The
company

data shows that more than a million people are at risk from only
one

worst-case scenario chemical accident.

Chemical accidents are under reported and no federal agency
keeps a

complete record. Between 1987 and 1994, more than 3,000
chemicals

accidents were reported in the U.S. of more than 10,000 pounds
of

hazardous material.

More people that live and work as far as 25 miles from dozens
of

chemical plants such as Dow, Georgia Gulf, Vulcan and Dupont are
at

risk of accidents. The groups released data on 50 danger zones
that

blanket a corridor 25 miles wide from Baton Rouge to New Orleans
and

the Lake Charles area in southwest Louisiana.

The same company reports include worst case scenarios and

alternative scenarios, including toxic chemical releases, fires
and

explosions. The Dow plant in Plaquemine reported a worst case
accident

involving the release of hydrogen chloride that could put
370,000

people at risk. Dow’s alternative scenario projects a smaller
danger

zone of 6.9 miles that puts 31,000 people at risk from a
chlorine leak.

Thirty-two of the 50 facilities investigated have reported
accidents

in the last eight years. These accidents have included worker
injuries,

evacuations, “shelter in place” emergency procedure and millions
of

dollars in property damage.

Greenpeace and the Working Group on CRTK collected this
alarming

data from the US EPA reading room in Washington, D.C. The data
released

today is for companies reporting worst case scenarios that could
put

100,000 or more people at risk.

The 1984 Union Carbide chemical leak
in Bhopal, India killed more

than 2,000 people and injured more than 100,000. This accident,
the

largest in history, prompted accident prevention provisions in
the 1990

Clean Air Act. Chemical companies, however, claimed terrorists
could

use these provisions to attack the U.S. and Congress limited
the

public’s access to this information. Although no chemical
company has

ever been the target of terrorists, the public is not allowed
to

photocopy these reports and can only view ten reports each
month.

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