March 21, 2012 by Vance Taylor
There comes a time when sharing too much information is a dangerous thing, and this is what the Environmental Protection Agency is about to do. In June, the EPA plans to establish Internet access for the public to view the non-Off-site Consequence Analysis (non-OCA) sections of the water sector’s Risk Management Plans (RMPs). The announcement from the Office of Emergency Management cites burdens associated with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and a need from the FBI and others for greater access to non-OCA data as the principle reasons why the EPA is proposing this change in data handling.
Here are my two biggest problems with what EPA plans to do:
1. Allowing broad public access to this information is extremely concerning as it could provide those with nefarious intentions a roadmap for attacking U.S. water systems. I’m not alone in thinking that. In 2000, the Department of Justice issued findings that outlined their concerns regarding the availability of this same information in the public domain. After 9/11, the information was removed from EPA’s website.
If posting the information was dangerous in 2000 and 2001, wouldn’t having it online in 2012 still create a major security risk?
2. Any inference that the public cannot currently access non-OCA information without submitting a formal FOIA request is misleading. The general public, via any federal reading room, can access non-OCA information without issuing an FOIA request.
Saying the FBI is having trouble accessing non-OCA information is even more misleading, as there are specific provisions within the law that explicitly enable the FBI to access this highly sensitive data.
The EPA needs to recognize that increasing the risks posed to U.S. water systems to reduce its bureaucratic burden of responding to FOIA requests and speaking to its federal partners isn’t in the nation’s best interest.
No need to jeopardize every community in America because the EPA is tired of dealing with red tape. After all, the Agency was the one that created all that red tape in the first place.