Rockefeller Introduces Bill To Outlaw Bayer Chem-Secrecy Ruse

July 1, 2009

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced a bill that would bar chemical companies from using phony security claims to hide their carelessness about the threats their plants present to neighboring communities.

Bayer CropScience tried unsuccessfully to stop a public meeting of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, claiming that information about the causes of its Institute, WV, plant's explosion in August 2008 was "sensitive security information" under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.

Subsequent hearings and investigations found that the biggest threat to the surrounding community was not terrorists, but Bayer itself, its neglect of safety, and the secrecy it had maintained about the threat its methyl isocyanate tank posed to its neighbors.

Rockefeller's bill keeps FOIA exemptions for real security information, but forbids using the SSI stamp "(A) to conceal a violation of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; (B) to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency; (C) to restrain competition; or (D) to prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of transportation security, including basic scientific research information not clearly related to transportation security."

The bill has not yet received a hearing, but has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, which Rockefeller chairs.