The release of a toxic chemical into the drinking water near Charleston, West Virginia, early in 2014 brought national attention to yet another toxic chemical incident. When local and state officials announced their ignorance of the potential health hazards associated with the particular chemical, it raised questions about the functionality of the Kanawha Putnam Emergency Planning Committee, a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) created as a result of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA). Local officials’ lack of awareness was particularly curious, because that very same county was the site of the Union Carbide chemical leak that stimulated Congress to create and pass the EPCRA. In the post-9/11 homeland security environment, knowing of the existence of a hazard plan – particularly in a community where an incident has occurred – would seem to be of paramount concern. In addition, considering the community right-to-know provisions of the EPCRA, what are the policies for the release of the sensitive information to the public in a post-9/11 world?
A review of the literature produced no current research on LEPCs related to either functionality or to release of hazardous chemical information to the community. The most recent survey was conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008. Peer-reviewed scholarly research has not been published since 2001. It was determined that a survey instrument was necessary to determine the impact of the events of 9/11 on the functionality of LEPCs, and on their policies governing the release of hazardous chemical information to the public.
An instrument was developed using a combination of questions derived from the review of literature about prior inquiries into LEPCs or release of information in the wake of 9/11, standard research methodology and questions were adapted from the 1999 and 2008 National LEPC surveys. The instrument’s content was validated by a jury of experts, revised, and pretested with 26 LEPC leaders from two states. The data was analyzed for internal correlation (consistency) using Cronbach’s α. The Cronbach’s α was recorded as .834, indicating strong reliability for the 17 scaled items of the 29 total questions.
Preliminary data from the pretest suggested that the events of 9/11 did not have a statistically significant impact on the functionality of LEPCs, but did result in major measurable changes in the policies related to the release of sensitive hazardous chemical information to the public. Further validation and refinement of the instrument is necessary before wider usage. The information gathered is valuable, however, as it can guide policymakers concerning the efficacy of current legislation, regulations, and policy. It can also inform them if legislation, regulations, and/or policy require modification to ensure the intent of the original legislation (EPCRA) is being met.
|Advisor:||Cosgrove, Richard J.|
|Commitee:||Renda-Tanali, Irmak, Snair, Scott|
|School:||New Jersey City University|
|Department:||Professional Security Studies|
|School Location:||United States -- New Jersey|
|Source:||DAI-A 77/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Social research, Management, Public administration|
|Keywords:||Emergency planning, Hazardous chemicals, Local governments, Public disclosure|
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