Thursday, May 30, 2002

Greenpeace to expose chemical dangers

Greenpeace plans to release a map showing how a terrorist attack on the Kuehne Chemical Co. bleach plant in South Kearny, NJ, could unleash a lethal cloud of chlorine vapor over New York City. The chemical company is, of course, fighting this, saying why don't you just paint a big bull’s eye on us and give the terrorists guns.

Hmmmm.... Any terrorists worth their weight already know the location of chemical plants, nuclear waste, other hazardous waste, and many other prime terror targets are. So, the bull’s eye was painted on them when they put a dangerous chemical plant so close to a major city. As for giving the terrorists guns, well, the FBI tried to look into gun purchase records to see if any terrorists had purchased weapons, but Att. Gen. Ashcroft said no. And the NRA, a bunch of terrorists hating red-necks if ever I saw any, applauded. I guess the NRA's interpretation of the second amendment even applies to terrorists.

As far as trying to hide the information about this plant's location, the only people who wouldn't know about it are the very people who should: New York and New Jersey residents who could be harmed by it, and who, through political means, could remove the threat completely by forcing these people to move to a safer place, adopt safer production techniques, or to stop making the dangerous chemicals altogether. Greenpeace uses grassroots organizing to make it's points, and this is as grassroots as it gets. Give the information to the people and let them decide for themselves.

Kuehne Chemical Co. could manufacture chlorine more safely, but they don't want to cut into profits. This release of information about an imminent toxic threat, coupled with their dedication to providing information on safer production and alternatives, is exactly why people like me are members of Greenpeace. Furthermore, while we make the transition to safer production and storage methods, the companies that manufacture toxic substances should be required to tell their neighbors what's up. The corporations, of course, will plead poverty, and continue to whine that the government should hide the information from everyone, even the people who could be killed.
But environmentalists are determined to keep exposing the information, arguing that chemical companies are engaged in far riskier behavior by not adopting safer manufacturing methods after Sept. 11. Greenpeace’s posting of the Kuehne (pronounced kee-nee) map will coincide with a "Run for Your Life" road race the environmental group is sponsoring at a nearby park to demonstrate that most people can’t outrun a spreading chlorine cloud. A serious incident could kill tens of thousands — even hundreds of thousands by some estimates — and damage the lungs of millions more.
And what about accidents? The U.S. Public Interest Research Group estimates there are between 25,000 and 50,000 accidental releases of toxic materials every year. Don't the people who live near these potential accident sites have a right to know what's going on next door? Can we not extend John Stuart Mill's harm principle to the preclusion of harm? Isn't that what we've told Israel it's OK to do? Isn't that what we're doing in Afghanistan, even when thousands of civilians become collateral damage?

Predictably, there will soon be a Republican sponsored bill to make it a crime to divulge the location of these ticking time-bombs. In their rush to help the big-businesses that get them elected, the Republicans are going to endanger the lives of their own constituents. Considering where most Republicans come from, most of these constituents could care less. Apparently, they like being polluted and lied to. That's why they elect Republicans. If they pulled their heads out of their asses for a moment, they'd realize that this is, like practically everything else, about greed. If they really think that terrorists haven't already gotten all the info they need, they're just fooling themselves and their stockholders. The real reason they want this information kept secret is because they know that if their neighbors knew what they were up to, they'd have to spend a whole bunch of money actually making their plants safe, instead of spending that money on lobbyists to keep the plants unsafe and hidden from the public.
The push for safer technologies got a boost in December, when Washington’s Blue Plains waste-water treatment plant completed its conversion from chlorine-gas disinfection to much safer liquid chlorine bleach a year ahead of schedule. Jerry Johnson, the general manager of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, said the plant’s stockpile of chlorine and sulfur dioxide put the capital in a "particularly critical situation" and "we decided the best course of action would be elimination of the threat." Jeremiah Baumann, an environmental health advocate with the Public Interest Research Group, points out that dozens of other water utilities have switched to ultraviolet light and ozone. "It’s not just activists who think the better solution is to use an alternative chemical," he says.
Elimination of the threat. Now doesn't that sound better than trying to hide it?

No comments: