Greenpeace Publicity Campaign Could Help Terrorists Attack Chemical Plants

Greenpeace, the radical environmental group with a penchant for publicity, may be treading on treasonous soil in its latest quest for headlines.

Earlier this month, the group posted a color map on the Internet showing how a terrorist attack on a New Jersey bleach plant could choke the New York metro area under a shroud of chlorine vapor.

Greenpeace also posted maps of three other U.S. toxic chemical plants – actions that could give al Qaeda sleeper cells in the U.S. blueprints for terrorism that could kill millions.

So far, this outrageous act has drawn little reaction from federal law enforcement officials.

At best, Greenpeace’s posting of the maps is a case of horrendously bad judgment. At worst, it borders on treason.

If it is later discovered that al Qaeda members actually use Greenpeace’s handy “target triptik” to plot future attacks on U.S. chemical plants, it would hardly seem unfair if its entire leadership were to be rounded up and sent to the Navy’s Club Med facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Before September 11, Greenpeace and other environmental groups had campaigned for the public posting of detailed and previously confidential information about plants that use or manufacture hazardous chemicals.

The Clinton Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to require chemical companies to publicly release much of this information despite warnings that public release could compromise national security.

The federal government has been rethinking its position in recent months and begun stripping maps of chemical plants, hazardous materials pipelines and water reservoirs and pumping stations from its own web sites and reading rooms.

Unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag. On June 4, Greenpeace posted on the Internet maps of four hazardous chemical plants in the crowded megapolis the runs from New York south to Baltimore.

Greenpeace obtained the maps because the EPA now requires industrial companies to post Risk Management Plans (RMPs) for all their facilities that either produce hazardous materials or store them for use in the manufacturing process.

The environmental group says a terrorist attack on the Kuehne Chemical bleach factory in N.J. could unleash a cloud of chlorine and sulfur that might cover a radius of 25 miles and jeopardize the lives and health of some 12 million people. An attack on the other three plants, Greenpeace contends, could release chlorine gas that could put another four million Americans at risk.

However, Kuehne Chemical’s chief operating officer Peter Kuehne disagrees, noting his plants have strict safety and security standards and the only release of toxic chemicals from the facility likely would come from exactly the type of terrorist attack Greenpeace’s actions may aid.

Kuehne told the Wall Street Journal (1) that Greenpeace’s posting of the map on its web site is akin to painting a gigantic bull’s-eye on the facility’s roof and providing the terrorists with snipers’ rifles. “I don’t think someone who wants to do us harm has a right to know this,” he said.

Carol Browner, who headed the EPA when the decision was made to post highly-detailed information about the plants on the Internet, defended her decision even after the first World Trade Center bombing and subsequent terrorist attacks on U.S. embassy and military installations overseas. Despite these flashing danger signals, Browner argued that making the data more available would force the chemical companies to seek alternative, less toxic materials for their products.

The American Chemistry Council responded by charging the EPA was in the pocket of “professional environmentalists” seeking to provide “one-stop shopping for terrorists.”

It is doubtful that Greenpeace is actually tied to Middle Eastern terrorists, but it did join with a number of domestic eco-terrorist groups including Monkey Wrench, the Ruckus Society and the Black Anarchists to demonstrate against ExxonMobil at the corporation’s recent shareholders’ meeting in Dallas.

ExxonMobil became a Greenpeace target by refusing to obey the group’s demand that it embrace the Kyoto global warming treaty.

The company notes that a Clinton Administration study concluded the pact would devastate the U.S. economy. The U.S. Senate, armed with that report, voted 95-0 in 1997 to urge the Clinton Administration not to send the treaty to Capitol Hill for ratification.

Protesting a major U.S. corporation is, of course, a constitutional right. Showing terrorists how to attack a hazardous chemical plant and perhaps, slaughter millions of innocents, is far different.

The U.S. Justice Department, the FBI and local law enforcement agencies should act quickly to make sure Greenpeace’s latest publicity stunt doesn’t contribute to the next American tragedy.

Amy Ridenour is president of The National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC. 


(1) Ann Davis, “New Alarms Heat Up Debate On Publicizing Chemical Risks,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2002.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.