Poultry farmers protest DHS rules over propane tanks

Published 22 August 2007

DHS rules that propane gas is a “chemical of interest” — and, under the stipulations of the new chemical plant safety law, hundreds of thousands of U.S. poultry farmers must now register with the agency

Are chicken coops the next battleground in the war on terror? Poultry growers are bitterly protesting proposed regulations from DHS which would label propane gas a “chemical of interest” and require anybody with 7,500 pounds or more of the fuel to register with the agency. At that amount, poultry farmers who use propane to heat chicken houses would have to fill out the forms. “I could think of a lot easier, better targets” for terrorists than chicken farms, groused Richard Lobb, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based National Chicken Council, an industry group. The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and the National Turkey Federation have joined the protests. By industry counts, up to 40,000 farms could be affected by the security proposal. The government says the registration rule is important to protect the country.

British police in July thwarted a potentially devastating terrorist plot in London after finding two Mercedes loaded with nails packed around canisters of propane and gasoline set to detonate. In Iraq, the military has seen propane tanks used in homemade bombs. Still, Maryland’s two senators, Democrats Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, wrote to DHS secretary Michael Chertoff asking that the rule be shelved. “Given the serious threats that are currently facing our country and the limited resources of the Department of Homeland Security, please explain why this initiative is a good use of federal dollars,” the senators wrote earlier this month.”

DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said the agency is right to compile data on dangerous chemicals, even in rural areas, and said farmers would only need to spend “a couple hours” online to comply.