Rena Steinzor or Elliott Negin, 202-289-6868
Justice Department Missed Deadline Required by Clean Air Act
WASHINGTON (March 11, 2002) -- The Justice Department has failed to submit a report to Congress on U.S. chemical plants' vulnerability to terrorist attacks, prompting NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) to file a lawsuit today in federal district court. The department was required to issue this "interim" report under the Clean Air Act by August 2000. In light of the events of September 11 of last year, NRDC says it is critical that the department complete the report to ensure public safety.
"Attorney General Ashcroft says he's concerned about homeland security, but his department is a year-and-a-half late on providing essential information to Congress about chemical plant vulnerability," said Rena Steinzor, an academic fellow and attorney at NRDC.
The Clean Air Act required the Justice Department to complete two reports assessing the vulnerability of U.S. chemical plants to terrorism. The interim report -- which is supposed to provide preliminary findings on the vulnerability of facilities -- was due August 5, 2000. The final report -- which is supposed to describe what facilities are doing to improve security -- is due August 5 of this year.
"We want the court to establish new deadlines for these reports," said Steinzor. "The Justice Department missed its first deadline, and it will most likely miss the second one this August for the final report. We need that information to protect citizens from releases of acutely toxic chemicals that could wreak havoc in the event of a terrorist attack." The American Chemical Council, she added, has repeatedly cited the Justice Department's failure to issue the report as a key reason why Congress should not yet enact legislation requiring greater security at U.S. chemical plants.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.