Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Attempt to Block CSB with Security Claims

The Chemical Safety Board just posted a press release on their web site outlining an emergency recommendation they are making to CITGO about an emergency response issue found during their investigation of the July 19th, 2009 explosion and fire at CITGO’s Corpus Christi refinery. As part of this recommendation CSB intended to release footage of two internal surveillance cameras that showed the events that led up to the explosion and fire. According to the CSB press release:
Chairman Bresland said, however, that the company had raised objections [sic] to the CSB’s release of the video, saying that doing so would “raise substantial issues of national security” and would “only sensationalize this unfortunate accident.” The CSB subsequently received affirmation from the Department of Homeland Security [sic] that the video did not fall under certain classifications requiring protection from disclosure. Chairman Bresland said, “We found this claim disturbing and believe that it is contrary to the intent of a recent law passed by Congress, following similar secrecy claims by Bayer CropScience in Institute, West Virginia. This law, the American Communities’ Right to Public Information Act, states that national security classifications may not be used to conceal corporate errors, prevent embarrassment, or improperly delay the release of information to the public. An important part of this CSB investigation is to ensure all relevant information and visual materials regarding this accident are made available to the residents of Corpus Christi.”
I am very happy to be able to report that the TSA responded promptly (one day turnaround) to the CSB request for a ruling on the security issue. Reading the TSA letter (CSB provided a link to the letter in their press release) it appears that TSA has been thinking through this type issue and has identified some reasonable internal guidelines for making these decisions. I am not sure that this is as clear a violations of the ‘intent’ of §561 of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010 (PL 111-83) as Chairman Bresland claims. It certainly goes against the mandate of the Chemical Safety Board to communicate the causes of such events to the local community and the chemical industry. I still maintain that the §561 provisions are inadequate to protect the CSB’s disclosure mandate. Congress needs to make absolutely clear that:
The CSB mandate to collect information about chemical accidents gives them automatic clearance for receiving SSI and CVI information; That CSB should be given full release authority on information obtained in their investigations, that in the opinion of the Chairman, that bears on the root cause of the accident or interfered with the effective response to the incident; and That TSA and ISCD should provide investigators to all CSB investigations at sites covered by security rules issued by those organizations to advise the CSB on security matters during the investigation.
It is only through a clear congressional statement of this sort in specific legislation that CSB will not have their urgent recommendations delayed while they have to get clearance for information release from the Department of Homeland Security.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */