report, and a recent series of hazardous waste violations at the Formosa Chemical plant in Point Comfort \(that embarrassed LEPC member and Formosa backer, State Sen. Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria see TO, underscores the need for independent oversight. The LEPC in Calhoun County is the largest among those surveyed, but most of its 78 members were drawn from industry; 31 people represent industry and regulated facilities, while there are only 26 emergency professionals, nine elected officials including Armbrister and State Rep. Steve Holzheauser, R-Victoria, and a scattering of non-elected government officials. In April 1990, according to the Calhoun County LEPC minutes, the plant manager of ALCOA informed members that the meeting had been called in order to present the Toxic Release Inventory data before they were released by the EPA. Representatives from Union Carbine, ALCOA, Formosa Plastics, elaborate presentations \(including slide shows, lists, several charts, and a video on emissions since 1987 and their high safety standards. The June meeting also included slides from Union Carbide on its transportation safety program, and a Formosa presentation using overhead transparencies. Of all those who spoke, only the chair, Billy Zwerschke, did not work in the chemical industry. The June meeting concluded when a BP representative said she would compile lists of “vulnerability zones,” or high risk areas, around local industries, and make a presentation in September. The LEPC, however, did not meet again. Said Durr, “CAER and the LEPC have almost become interchangeable in some areas.” In Ector county LEPC memos appear on CAER letterhead, and the meetings are now called “CAER/LEPC” meetings. In a speech before the British Institute of Chemical Engineers in 1988, Monsanto senior vice-president for environmental safety and health Harold J. Corbett described the purpose of the chemical industry’s new program of public information. “Begining in July, every major manufacruring industry in the U.S. must report what hazardous chemicals are routinely emitted to air, water, and land…. The new law does not require us to fix anything, install anything, or clean up anything. Just simply report the data… The reaction may well be staggering. If we don’t voluntarily make a basic change in our approach to public concerns, the public will force us to make it.” While Dun claims that there are no significant differences between the industry sponsored program for emergency planning and SARA Title III, some LEPC members have complained about the strong role played by CAER and its industry membership. “Many of the same representatives are on both,” said Janet Willie, who has served as the media member on the Texas City/La Marque LEPC for two years. “CAER principally addresses emergency reponse planning but the LEPC was clearly meant to go beyond that. LEPC is an independent, community based law. The company-dominated CAER committees were set up right after Bhopal and are clearly designed to prove that industry can function without government supervision.” According to Fred Millar, the categories set up by the federal law explicitly define the kind of broad and balanced community organization the LEPC should be. “Companies are not supposed to be a voting block on the LEPCs,” Millar said. “They are to have one vote among 14. Not every company in town is supposed to have a voting member.” Ector County’s “CAER/LEPC” has 12 industry reps, or about a third of the committee. In some counties, the major industry writes the emergency plan itself and provides most of the infrastructure for an underfunded LEPC and emergency management office. According to Patsy White, assistant to the Commissioner’s Court in Brown County, “We [LEPC] met two years ago and then stopped while we did the plan. We patterned our plan after another county, and then the people at 3M adapted it. We used their computer, their personnel, their expertise. Now that the plan is done, we hope to do better.” Millar, who has toured the country teaching community people and LEPCs about the information they can obtain under SARA Title III, finds that fire departments and emer gency managers across the country have repeatedly been forced to rely on companies for donations and for voltintary information because LEPCs were never funded under federal law. Many LEPCs are in an awkward position with respect to the industries they are supposed to regulate. “Fire chiefs have historically been beggars asking companies for materials, gloves, computers and permission to look at everything,” Millar said.”Do you really want to turn your most endangered first responders over to the corporate establishment?” Burying Public Information “I went to the bottom of the courthouse and found the lists of chemicals,” said the newly appointed emergency manager for Ellis County, Fred Minton. “There wasn’t anybody managing it. People couldn’t get to the lists. Companies have sent them, but I don’t know if I have them all. I’ve tried to find out who’s supposed to send them to me, but if there’s ten companies not reporting, no one knows.” By law, companies must send the LEPC their chemical inventories and the Material hazards involved in handling each chemical. These are supposed to be available to the public, but most LEPCs have no program to explain the public’s rights under SARA Title III and the potential of the LEPCs. Some companies voluntarily send the LEPC site plans with risks, analyzed under different conditions as part of the chemical industry’s THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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