EPA: Clean toxic data from Web site

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a regulation Thursday that would prohibit information about toxic waste sites and dangerous chemicals from being posted on its Internet site.

To keep sensitive information out of the hands of terrorists, the rule would prohibit the posting of information such as the size of the population in an area near a chemical plant and other information routinely filed with the EPA by hazardous materials facilities.

"The risk of terrorists attempting in the foreseeable future to cause a potentially catastrophic chemical release is both real and credible," the EPA said in its proposed rule. "Terrorists increasingly engineer their attacks to cause mass casualties to the populace and/or large-scale damage to property."

The EPA and the Justice Department prompted the rule, which has a 45-day comment period, in the wake of their concerns that information filed by chemical companies with the EPA could be misused by terrorists or other criminals.

"Although no criminal or terrorist has yet successfully caused a chemical release from an industrial facility on U.S. soil, domestic terrorist groups have, during the past two years, twice been caught by law enforcement plotting to cause industrial chemical releases for terrorist purposes at U.S. facilities," the EPA said.

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