Friday, July 23, 2010

New Greenpeace Video

Greenpeace has added yet another new program in their campaign to influence public opinion to help them convince Congress to implement an aggressive inherently safer technology mandate in the legislation to reauthorize the CFATS program. This time it is video on YouTube showing a retired California fire fighter talking about his experiences in emergency response at chemical facilities. The Video I had a reader tell me that this video was produced by volunteers. You certainly can’t tell it from the production values. Ed Shlegel, the on-screen personality, is a retired Los Angeles Fire Captain and looks (and sounds) like he should have come from central casting. The photography is excellent with chemical facility backgrounds throughout the video and not a cheap shot in the batch; not a single shot that the chemical industry could object to. The dialogue is straight forward and it is certainly not strident. Ed explains that his job was to respond to emergency situations and describes rolling into a refinery with an active chlorine leak while the employees were ‘running out the gate’. He explains that going into danger was his job and he knew the risks he was going to potentially deal with. He then asks if the refinery’s neighbors knew the potential dangers that they were living with. He closes by explaining that the highest risk facilities have safer alternatives for their dangerous chemicals and the law needs to make sure that they use those alternatives. Finally, he recommends pressuring Sen. Boxer (D, CA) to support the unspecified legislation. The Politics It’s interesting that Sen. Boxer is targeted in this video. She is a Committee Chair, but Public Works Committee would have little to do with chemical facility security legislation. That is until last week when Sen. Lautenberg (D, NJ) introduced the Secure Water Facilities Act which would require water treatment facilities to evaluate and implement (where practical) safer alternatives to chlorine gas. Sen. Boxer’s committee has been delegated the responsibility to review that bill. Actually I doubt that the producers of this video had that in mind when they produced the video. A more important consideration was probably the fact the Ms Boxer is in relatively tight race for re-election this year. The environmental vote in California is an important constituency for Democratic candidates. Reminding the Senator of the issues that are important to the environmental community is especially important in a close election. I first saw mention of this video on Twitter® in a tweet from GreenpeaceIL. That tweet ended with the comment: “Call Senator Burris today!”. This is one of the important aspects of this type of use of the web, a video that is targeted at a politician in California can be used by local activists to target a politician in Illinois. The Message I don’t think that this particular message is properly targeted. The most effective points made by this retired fire fighter are not security related. They have to do with community relations and hazard communications. None of those issues have anything to do, directly, with counter-terrorism, which is what the targeted security legislation is supposed to be about. In fact, there is not a single mention of security or terrorism in the video. Unfortunately, no one is currently working on bills to improve the laws dealing with Community Right to Know or emergency response planning issues. The only legislation looking at chemical facilities is the reauthorization of the CFATS regulations. So the environmentalists are targeting that bill. Now when the environmentalists point out that removing high-risk chemicals from facilities effectively removes them from potential target lists of terrorists they do make a security point. That is never mentioned in this video. This only deals with emergency response and hazard communication. Will the target audience notice the difference? Probably not. So, if Greenpeace can get enough play on this video (always a potential problem with the thousands of videos posted to YouTube® every day), the video will probably have the desired affect on the public. Of course there is still the problem of preaching to the choir; Sen. Boxer can probably be counted on for supporting Sen. Lautenberg’s bill.

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