Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Laws to decrease the monitoring of our demise

NYC Ban Private Toxic Sampling?

Intro 650 will require permits for the possession or use of any instruments which monitor chemical, biological or radiological contamination. The NYC Police Department has testified that the impetus for the bill came from the Department of Homeland Security. Intro 650 will give NYPD the power to authorize, deny, or delay any workplace or environmental sampling. NYPD has testified that the Department of Homeland Security intends to use this legislation, if enacted, as a model for other cities throughout the country. We believe the bill, if enacted, will restrict, and could prevent altogether, independent environmental monitoring by unions, community organizations, and others, including university programs. We believe this would pose a significant threat to our civil liberties.

Homeland Security is taking away the public's ability to monitor our poisoning by the government. I don't see how independent sources threaten our national security unless our government has something to hide...and it does.

1. Intro 650 is aimed at fixing a problem that does not exist. The stated purpose of
the bill is to reduce “excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety.” No data
are presented to support the claim of “excessive false alarms,” nor are the types
of alarms that are presumed to be excessive defined. No evidence is presented
to document “unwarranted anxiety.” It is likely that no such data or evidence
exist. Neither press reports nor the scientific literature nor the city’s own web site
provides any support for the assertion that “excessive false alarms and
unwarranted anxiety” have been or are real-world problems.

2. Intro 650 would make it more difficult for the public, and for government
agencies, to obtain environmental sampling data in a timely manner. The inability
of government agencies to rapidly deploy air monitoring instruments is well
documented. For example, the earliest sampling of workers’ breathing zones at
Ground Zero was conducted by the National Hazmat Program of the International
Union of Operating Engineers, which came in from West Virginia. OSHA did not
begin taking personal samples until September 20. Had Intro 650 been in effect
on September 11, 2001, it would have been illegal for technical experts from
West Virginia to respond at Ground Zero.
3. Intro 650 would make it more difficult for the public to obtain independent
environmental sampling data and to assess the accuracy of government
statements. For example, elected officials representing the areas of Manhattan
most affected by the September 11th attack, including members of this City
Council, employed nationally-recognized experts to conduct indoor sampling of
residences adjacent to Ground Zero within days of the attacks. Sampling results
indicated dangerously high levels of WTC-derived asbestos in downtown
residences. At the time, EPA was proclaiming that the air was safe to breathe
and NYCDOH was stating that indoor dust could be cleaned up by residents.
Government agencies did not conduct indoor tests in residences until December.
Had Intro 650 been in effect on September 11, 2001, it would have been illegal
for the City Council and other elected officials to bring in technical experts from
outside the city to test downtown residences.

4. Intro 650 would inappropriately and impossibly task NYPD with assessing the
capabilities of air monitoring instruments and of the individuals, agencies, and
organizations that utilize them. It would put NYPD in the position of determining
which employers, unions, landlords, tenants, community-based organizations,
and others would be entitled to conduct independent environmental
assessments. For example, community-based organizations in Harlem and
Chinatown concerned about the incidence of asthma and other respiratory
diseases would have to obtain police permits to monitor diesel emissions in the
public streets outside bus depots.

5. Intro 650 would immediately make illegal scores of thousands of safety devices
already in place in homes, schools, businesses, and public buildings. These
devices include carbon monoxide detectors and legally required smoke
NYPD testified earlier today that it may ultimately exclude certain yet to be determined
monitoring equipment and activities from the permitting requirements. However, as
Councilpersons Liu and Garodnick correctly noted, the current legislation would grant
NYPD a “blank check” on rule-making, not subject to further City Council oversight or
NYPD testified that its interest is detection of chemical, biological, radiological, and
nuclear weaponry agents. However, this bill is not that. It is not a CBRN bill. As currently
written, it covers emergency response, industrial, environmental, and academic
activities unrelated to CBRN warfare. It would significantly curtail public access to
independent environmental data, in line with the post-9/11 Bush agenda.
In conclusion, the goal in science is generally to obtain more data, not less. Intro 650
would serve to drastically impede independent collection of and public access to
environmental sampling data. There is no danger to public safety or public health from
the acquisition of additional data. NYCOSH and NYCCLC urge this Committee and the
City Council to reject this bill in its entirety.

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