Koch Industries, a leader of industry resistance to proposed post-9/11 anti-terrorism safeguards at petrochemical plants, owns 56 facilities using hazardous chemicals that put 4.8 million Americans who live nearby at risk.
Schools, homes, hospitals, office parks, churches, recreation areas, nursing homes and daycare facilities dot the properties that surround the Koch plants.
In the government's "worst case" scenarios, the millions working or living near the plants could be threatened by explosions, chemical spills or clouds of deadly gas, federal records show. Among the hazardous chemicals stored and used at Koch sites are formaldehyde, chlorine, anhydrous ammonia and hydrogen fluoride.
Koch's own reports to the U.S. government were reviewed by iWatch News. The records, known as risk management plans, are maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency. Access is strictly controlled: members of the press and public can only examine 10 plans per month, under the watchful eye of EPA officials.
A decade after the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, Koch insists that its neighbors are safe, and are adequately protected by federal and state regulations.
All chemical firms are "vulnerable to human error, acts of nature, theft and sabotage," Koch acknowledges. "It is impossible to completely eliminate every threat."
But "chemicals are at the heart of many of our businesses," the firm says, in a section titled "Chemical Safety" on Koch's website. "The ones used in our facilities are handled with care and by trained professionals."
The Kansas-based conglomerate vows that it "places compliance and safety before profit."
Koch did not respond to repeated inquiries for comment to this story over a week's time.
Koch lobbies against stricter rules
Charles and David Koch, the owners of the country's second-largest private corporation, are libertarians of long standing, who contend that government regulations, taxes and subsidies stifle individual initiative and hamper American competitiveness. In recent years, the Kochs have played an increasingly public role as financial angels for conservative causes, politicians and foundations.
In Washington, Koch is a leader in efforts to oppose counter-terrorism proposals that would require that petrochemical firms use less hazardous practices and chemicals.
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