WASHINGTON – June 15 - The Bush Administration and industry representatives are scheduled to testify today in both the House and the Senate regarding the security of chemical facilities.
The Senate hearing, held by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, features Robert Stephan of the Department of Homeland Security and Thomas Dunne of the Environmental Protection Agency, and focuses on actions taken by the Bush Administration since September 11, 2001. The House Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Cybersecurity’s hearing also features Mr. Stephan, representatives from industry groups like the American Chemistry Council and the American Petroleum Institute, and two security experts, and focuses on how terrorist attacks can be prevented.
“While industry groups claim to have made great strides in safety and security since September 11th our research shows that this is simply not the case,” said U.S. PIRG Environmental Health Advocate Meghan Purvis. “While we’re heartened by reports that the Department of Homeland Security is now questioning industry’s solely voluntary efforts, it’s unfortunate that it has taken them four years to start asking those questions,” she continued.
Purvis cited as one example the American Chemistry Council’s voluntary program Responsible Care. U.S. PIRG’s 2004 report Irresponsible Care: The Failure of the Chemical Industry to Protect the Public from Chemical Accidents showed that after September 11th, the number of accidents at American Chemistry Council facilities stayed virtually the same. In addition, many of these accidents and the danger of future attacks to public health could be avoided with the implementation of safer technologies, an idea that Purvis points out is currently not being addressed by the Department of Homeland Security.
(Find Irresponsible Care at http://uspirg.org/uspirg.asp?id2=12860&id3=USPIRG&)
Other industry sectors are no different, noted Purvis. U.S. PIRG’s report Needless Risk: Oil Refineries and Hazard Reduction shows the susceptibility of oil refineries as terrorist targets. Even after September 11th, activists and reporters across the country gained easy access to the tanks and control rooms of petroleum facilities.
(Find Needless Risk at http://uspirg.org/uspirg.asp?id2=10916&id3=USPIRG&)
U.S. PIRG applauded both the Senate and House committees for promoting public discussion of the chemical security issue. Many of the Senators and Representatives on these two committees represent states that contain large numbers of dangerous chemical facilities, according to the EPA’s Risk Management Program.
Despite nearly four years of attempts by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and Senators Corzine, Jeffords, Representative Pallone, and others to pass chemical security legislation, heavy industry lobbying and the Bush administration itself have repeatedly stifled any new progress, noted Purvis. U.S. PIRG called on the House and Senate committees to stand up for the safety and security of millions of Americans, and to push to ensure that chemical security legislation includes real chemical security solutions.
U.S. PIRG is the national advocacy office for the state Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations.