Environmental Protection

Security Committee OKs Chemical Plant Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee on March 6 passed the “Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008.” The bill would strengthen the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) regulations and create a permanent law to address the risks posed by chemical facilities.

Rick Hind, legislative director for Greenpeace USA’s toxics campaign, said, “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."

The “Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008” includes the following provisions:

• Requires 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.

Greenpeace noted that the bill also gives DHS complete discretion in designating facilities in the highest risk tier and fails to let the public know how many facilities are in compliance or not. Industrial facilities may be allowed to develop their own security programs.

The bill will now go to the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Greenpeace, created in 1971, is an independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful direct action and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

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