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From October 4, 2001

EPA Removes Chemical Data from Website

According to the Washington Post, in response to the recent terrorist attacks, the Environmental Protection Agency dismantled its risk management program website, which informs communities of dangers from 15,000 chemical plants and other industrial facilities nationwide. This move was made along side several other government agencies in removing "sensitive information" from their website. Pages removed include information on pesticides, chlorine and gasoline.

The widespread editing shows how quickly the federal government has switched gears following the attacks. Although community activists have lobbied for years for more open access to records, agencies now say terrorist access to these documents puts the public in danger.

"This has received so much publicity that we decided to take [the information] down," Jim Makris, Environmental Protection Agency emergency coordinator told the Washington Post. "We're trying to decide whether it was the proper thing to do."
Most environmentalists do not think it was the right things to do and have chastised industry for using anti-terrorism as an excuse to avoid discussion of its shortcomings. "We should be pushing for improvements in site security, not figuring out how to hide information," said Fred Millar, a former toxics director at Friends of the Earth. "Keeping the public in the dark is a prescription for anxiety." Others believe that if the chemicals are a threat, they should be eliminated or restricted, not the public's right to know, especially when viable alternatives exist.