Monday, August 11, 2003

Gary Hart on Chemical Plant Security

Former Senator and Presidential candidate Gary Hart has followed my lead writing in the Washington Post about the Bush administration's rhetoric (and nothing else) on chemical plant security. He does a good job explaining the problems with the Inhofe bill:
Incredibly, the Inhofe bill provides for virtually no oversight or enforcement of safety requirements. Unlike Corzine's proposal, it would not allow the government to demand emergency action by companies that it has reason to believe are terrorist targets, nor would it insist on government review of facility security plans. (The latter failure is akin to the Internal Revenue Service's telling companies to fill out their tax forms but not to bother to file them.) The Inhofe bill prohibits the federal agency with the most expertise on chemicals, the EPA, from putting its skills to good use. And unlike the Corzine bill, the Inhofe bill would not require companies to replace dangerous chemicals -- which might pose tempting terrorist targets -- even when safer technologies are available and affordable. The chemical manufacturers say that they will consider making their processes safer. But we did not just ask airlines to simply consider improving security -- we made them do it.

If Inhofe's bill were to become law, only the chemical industry would breathe easier. But the Bush administration has an obligation to all Americans to do more than simply permit industry to write its own rules. We need legislation that keeps us safer by requiring chemical companies to reduce their risks and that ensures accountability through government oversight.