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Highest Risk Chemical Plant in U.S. Fails Security Inspection
12 Million People Remain at Risk in NY-NJ Metro Area
WASHINGTON - June 22 - TRENTON, NJ - Following a May 13th citizen's inspection of the highest risk chemical plant in the U.S., Greenpeace today cited the Kuehne Chemical Co., Inc. of South Kearney, NJ for "failure to prevent catastrophic risks." The report was given to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the United States Coast Guard and a copy to Kuehne. Greenpeace has also confirmed that the Kuehne facility is exempt from the temporary DHS security rules for chemical plants because it is subject to much less stringent rules under the Maritime Transportation Security Act.
The report includes photos of the plant taken in the middle of the day from Greenpeace boats on the Hackensack River, from above the plant on the Pulaski Skyway and in front of the plant's main gate. Greenpeace inspectors were never approached by plant personnel or other security. According to the disaster scenario submitted by Kuehne to the EPA, the company's plant puts 12 million people at risk who live within a 14-mile radius throughout the NY-NJ metropolitan area. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/assets/binaries/kuehne-plant"Our inspection shows that the chemical disaster scenario that Kuehne has given to the EPA is as unrealistic as the estimates BP first gave about the size of their Deepwater oil rig blow out," said Rick Hind, Greenpeace Legislative Director. "Kuehne's scenario is based on a fraction of the nearly 2 million pounds of chlorine gas they may have on site. In contrast, the Clorox Company announced plans in November to convert all of their U.S. facilities to safer processes. Instead of taking similar action, Kuehne is asking for a $50 million hand-out from taxpayers. It's time for Congress to pass legislation that requires all of the highest risk plants to prevent chemical disasters."
Under a temporary federal law the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is actually prohibited from requiring the use of safer chemical processes to prevent chemical disasters. Furthermore in March, the DHS testified that it would inspect only 4 percent of the 5,000 "high-risk" plants by the end of 2010. The DHS and EPA are asking Congress for authority to prevent these risks.
Congress is currently considering permanent legislation that will prevent chemical disasters whether by terrorist attacks or accidents. Approximately 500 plants have already begun using safer alternatives to eliminate these risks to 40 million Americans. The U.S. Senate is about to consider legislation (H.R. 2868) passed by the House in November. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is preparing to introduce this legislation in the Senate before the July 4th recess.
"New Jersey has led the nation in requiring high-risk chemical plants to ‘assess" safer alternatives but the catastrophic risks posed by Kuehne Chemical and others are living proof of the need for new federal standards that require the use of safer chemical processes, " said Rick Engler, Director of the New Jersey Work Environment Council. "The day after another attack like 9/11, no one will question whether we should have required these plants to use safer available alternatives."
Today 300 U.S. chemical plants together put 110 million Americans at risk of a catastrophic attack or accident up to 25 miles down wind of their facilities. In 2004, the Homeland Security Council estimated that an attack on a chemical facility would kill 17,500 people, seriously injure 10,000, and send and additional 100,000 people to the hospital.
The magnitude of a chemical facility's risk is based on the "worst case scenario" reports they submit to the EPA. The DHS has warned chemical facilities that the worst-case scenarios of a terrorist attack will be "more severe" than those submitted to the EPA. A terrorist attack could result in the release of much more than one storage tank of poison gases stored on site. The accidental release of one tank of poison gas at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India in 1984 killed 8,000 people within a few days.
America's railroads are the largest carriers of poison gases. These gases represent only 0.3 percent of all of their cargo but 80 percent of their liability. In 2008 the Association of American Railroads said, "It's time for the big chemical companies to do their part to help protect America. They should stop manufacturing dangerous chemicals when safer substitutes are available. And if they won't do it, Congress should do it for them..."
This is the third in a series of Greenpeace citizen inspections of high-risk chemical facilities. The first inspections were announced on May 21st at two DuPont facilities in Delaware and New Jersey. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/failed-inspection
Kuehne Chemical was part of a front page NY Daily News expose' in July 2002 about the highest risk chemical plants in the NY metro area and was also featured in a November 2003 CBS 60 Minutes story about chemical plant security.