Bill regulating chemical plants security to be formally introduced

Published 19 December 2005

Long-awaited bill to standardize security measure in chemical facilities to be introduced; government given right to close down non-complying plants

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), will formally introduce the long-anticipated bill aiming to subject chemical and other industrial facilities to tighter federal security regulations. Collins said that witnesses before her committee warned during hearings earlier this year that terrorists could use chemical manufacturing and storage plants as weapons. “What’s impressed me most is the need to act in this area that’s just crying out for action,” said Collins, whose bill would create national standards for securing chemical plants. She believes the threat is too big for voluntary industry efforts and a patchwork of state laws.

To illustrate the risks inherent in unregulated chemical plants, bill supporters cited the 1984 accidental release of methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India, which killed 3,000 people and injured 200,000. In the United States, 123 facilities nationwide each have the potential to kill 1 million people, assuming the worst, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An additional 170 facilities have the potential of killing 50,000 of more if an accidental release occurs. The EPA has removed the list from its Web site as a security precaution.

Under Collins’ bill, DHS would determine threats to specific locations, such as a truck bomb or armed intruder. Facilities would be ranked by tiers, with those at greatest risk developing the strictest protections. Facilities would also have to assess their vulnerability and develop security and emergency response plans.

-read more in this report