U. S. Senators Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn, have introduced legislation that would attempt to reduce the danger from terrorist attacks on chemical plants.
Federal and state regulations have long attempted to reduce dangers to the public from releases of chemicals from chemical manufacturing plants and from chemical storage and transportation facilities. However, these regulations are based on the danger of accidental risks. There is the assumption that, while chemical company managers and employees may make mistakes and take chances, no one wants to cause a deadly chemical release or explosion. However, protection from terrorist attacks must be based on the concept that some people want to cause a chemical incident that kills many people.
It has been estimated that a single chlorine tank could release enough vapor to kill several times the number of people killed by the 9/11 attacks. Yet, with all of the new security at airports, little has been done to protect the public from chemical plant attacks.
The Collins/Lieberman bill will require plants to assess vulnerability and to develop security and response plans. The bill will also require the Department of Homeland Security to develop standards for chemical plant security, with the ability to shut down plants that fail to develop acceptable plans.
Proponents of additional chemical plant security feared that the legislation would pre-empt state law that is stricter than the federal law. For example, laws in New Jersey that are stricter than the federal law could not be enforced. However, language to pre-empt state laws has been removed from the proposed law.
On the web:
New York Times Op-Ed
American Chemistry Council press release