Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Chemical Plant Security: Feeling Safer Yet?

Rick Hind of GreenPeace and attorney David Halperin, argue in the NY Times today that for the Bush administration "homeland security is critical except when it conflicts with the wishes of supporters who own chemical plants."

They are writing specifically about the Bush administration's cave-in to pressure from chemical manufacturers over the issue of chemical plant security. As I've related numerous times in Confined Space (here, here and here), instead of giving EPA the authority to issue regulations forcing chemical plants to take security measures and to promote the use of less hazardous chemicals and processes (which was also the aim of legislation introduced by Senator Jon Corzine D-NJ), the Bush administration has given the chemical plant security portfolio to the Department of Homeland security which is relying on plants to adopt voluntary industry guidelines instead of mandatory regulations. (And in case anyone's keeping score, John Kerry has endorsed the Corzine bill.)

EPA had identified 123 chemical facilities where an accident or attack could threaten more than a million people, and 7,605 plants that threatened more than 1,000 people. But doing nothing about that little problem doesn't exactly fit well with the image of strong, terrorist-fighting, homeland securing, tough wartime President, so
Homeland Security tried to reduce the threat of catastrophic attack with the stroke of a pen. The department announced that the number of plants that threatened more than 1,000 people was actually only 4,391, and the number that endangered more than a million people was not 123 but two.
I feel much safer now.