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Greenpeace: House Security Committee Passes Chemical Plant Anti-Terrorism Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6, 2008
3:21 PM

CONTACT: Greenpeace
Jane Kochersperger, Media Officer, (202) 319-2493 direct;
Rick Hind, Legislative Director Greenpeace toxics campaign, (202) 413-8513

 
House Security Committee Passes Chemical Plant Anti-Terrorism Bill
 

WASHINGTON, DC - March 6 - In a bipartisan vote, led by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the House Homeland Security Committee today passed the “Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008.” The bill would significantly strengthen the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) regulations and create a permanent law to address the risks posed by chemical facilities. In response to the bill’s passage, Rick Hind, Legislative Director for Greenpeace USA’s toxics campaign, issued the following statement:

“If enacted, this new law could save thousands of lives. By using safer chemicals to replace obsolete poison gases, a U.S. chemical plant no longer could be turned into a weapon of mass destruction. Under the existing interim law, the most ironclad security measures and safer technologies are actually barred from becoming a security requirement."

Background Summary of the “Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008”

Positive provisions:
- Includes Rep. Markey’s (D-MA) amendment requiring high-risk chemical facilities to use safer chemicals or methods that "reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack" as long as they do not shift risks and are technically feasible and cost effective.
- Eliminates the current law's exemption of approximately 3,000 drinking water and wastewater facilities.
- Involves plant employees in the development of vulnerability assessments and security plans and provides protection for whistleblowers.
- Protects state authority to establish stronger security standards.

Security loopholes:
- Allows the DHS complete discretion in designating facilities in the highest risk tier. The DHS is currently focusing only on 90 facilities for the highest risk tier. As a result, more than 97 percent of the plants that the DHS has identified as each putting 1,000 or more people at risk will be exempt from the strictest security standards and community protections. See national map at: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/assets/graphics/chemical-facility-maps
- Fails to let the public know how many facilities are in compliance with the law, how many are using safer technologies or how many are in each of the four risk tiers.
- Contains a loophole that could allow industry to substitute its own security programs for federal security requirements.
- Fails to require an assessment of emergency response capacity and limits public dissemination of information about safer technologies.

The bill will now go to next the Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), ranking and former chair, has openly opposed and derailed strong legislation since 9/11. Alternately, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) has probed the administration’s inaction on chemical security since 2002.

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