A measure, just signed into law by President Obama, would prohibit chemical companies from classifying safety information as “sensitive” in an effort to keep it from becoming public. The new law is in response to a workplace explosion that caused two fatalities.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) originally drafted The American Communities Right to Public Information Act as a separate piece of legislation. It was passed into law as part of an appropriations bill for The Department of Homeland Security.
The amendment makes clear that the Sensitive Security Information designation created by recent homeland security laws can’t be used to withhold information that the government should share with the public.
The legislation was drafted in response to the Bayer CropScience explosion in August 2008 that killed two workers in Institute, WV.
The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee accused Bayer of using a “campaign of secrecy” regarding the explosion.
The committee said Bayer withheld critical information from emergency responders and investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.
The appropriations bill says information may not be designated as security sensitive “to conceal a violation of law, inefficiency, or administrative error … to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization or agency … to restrain competition … or to prevent or delay the release of information that doesn’t require protection in the interest of transportation security, including basic scientific research information.”