Date: Wed, 7 Nov 2007 12:00:13 -0500
Reply-To: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: Homeland Security Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Standards

If you haven't noticed, DHS released the Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Standards' Appendix A last week: The rules seems to have taken many of the comments from the laboratory community into account. But, there are public perception issues, as expressed in the New York Times: > > November 7, 2007 > Editorial > Chemical Industry 1, Public Safety 0 > Air travelers are asking for trouble if they show up for a flight > with 3.5 ounces of shampoo in their carry-on bags. But the > Department of Homeland Security has decided that the government > should not even trouble chemical plants to account for the storage > of anything under 2,500 pounds of deadly chlorine. The department’s > new rules on reporting stockpiles of toxic chemicals, issued last > week, have certainly made the industry happy. They should make the > public worried. > > Chemical plants — and petroleum plants, paper mills and other > industrial facilities that use dangerous chemicals — are one of the > nation’s greatest vulnerabilities. An attack on such a facility > could create a deadly chemical cloud that would put hundreds of > thousands of people in danger. Just consider the result of an > accidental train derailment in North Dakota in 2002 — a cloud of > deadly chemicals hundreds of feet high and several miles long — and > magnify it by what would happen if terrorists planned and carried > out an attack in a highly populated area. > > The government should be doing everything it can to guard against > such catastrophes. > > The Bush administration has shown repeatedly, however, that it does > not want to impose reasonable safety requirements on chemical > plants. That may have to do with its general opposition to > regulations, or it could be connected to the enormous amount of > money the chemical industry spends on lobbying and campaign > contributions. The industry does not want to bear the expense of > serious safety rules, and it fights them furiously. In a recent > study, Greenpeace reported that the chemical industry spent more > money in a year lobbying to defeat strong chemical plant legislation > than the Department of Homeland Security spent on chemical plant > security. > > The rules the department issued last week are far too lax about when > facilities need to report stockpiles of chemicals like chlorine, > fluorine and hydrogen fluoride to the government. According to the > new rules, which watered-down proposed rules that the department had > released in April, a chemical plant does not have to report the > storage of 2,499 pounds of chlorine, even if it is located in a > populated area — or across from an elementary school. > > If 450 pounds of chlorine are stolen, enough to cause mass > casualties, the theft need not be reported. Chlorine has been used > by insurgents in Iraq, and it is high on the list of chemicals that > should be kept out of terrorists’ hands. > > It is troubling that these industry-friendly rules were developed in > part by Department of Homeland Security employees who previously > worked for the chemical industry — and who may one day work for it > again. Rick Hind, the legislative director of the Greenpeace Toxics > Campaign, contends that such employees have had an “undue > influence.” The department says it draws on former chemical industry > workers simply because of their “relevant prior experience.” > > Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who is chairman of the > House Homeland Security Committee, has rightly compared the chemical > storage rules to “putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.” Congress > needs to step in now and pass a strong new chemical plant law — one > that puts more weight on the safety of the public and less on > industry’s bottom line. > > > >

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