Wednesday, November 12, 2003

New Jersey Steps into Chemical Plant Security Debate

Governor James McGreevey of New Jersey is reportedly on the verge of issuing a memorandum of understanding between the state and three chemical industry organizations that would address chemical plant security and allow chemical companies to avoid state regulation.

Senator Jon Cozine (D-NJ), who has introduced legislation into the Senate requiring stronger federal regulations, is not pleased. A spokesman for Corzine stated that "Senator Corzine believes we need a strong regulatory approach with strong requirements and serious teeth."

Environmental and worker advocacy groups are also unhappy:
The memorandum would require chemical plants to adhere to the Responsible Care Security Code, a set of guidelines crafted by the American Chemistry Council. The DEP would develop a program to inspect facilities and determine whether they are living up to those standards, a draft of the memo said. Any companies choosing not to participate would be subject to state security regulations, which have yet to be created but presumably would be harsher.

Jamie Conrad, a lawyer for the American Chemistry Council, said the Responsible Care standards run hundreds of pages, providing extensive guidance on plant security.

"There's an enormous amount of detail in these guidance documents as to how to do it," Conrad said.

But Rick Engler of the Work Environment Council, a group that links organized labor and environmental issues, said industry should not be able to write its own rules.

"We think it's outrageous," Engler said. "It's kind of ironic that this secret deal is being cooked up in the home state of Senator Corzine, who is leading the fight for national standards."