DuPont Co., Dow Chemical Co. and other chemical companies will have to submit to government inspections of their plants' security under proposed regulations issued today by the U.S. Homeland Security Department.Although the chemical industry applauds the Bush administration's proposal, the new proposals have come under considerable criticism
Under the new rules, chemical plants considered to be high- risk must assess their vulnerabilities and provide security plans to the government. Manufacturers could be fined as much as $25,000 a day or, in the worst case, closed down for non- compliance.
Under the rules issued Friday by the Homeland Security Department, chemical plants at high risk of terrorist attack will largely determine for themselves the level of protection they think is needed.Even Republican Senator Susan Collins had problems with the proposal:
Nothing in the rules suggests that the plants must adopt specific security measures. A concrete barrier blocking access to toxic chemicals? A switch to safer chemicals if economically feasible? Even a chainlink fence? There is nothing in the rules requiring the chemical industry to invest in security measures or to adhere to strict standards. Instead, the nation's chemical companies will tell the government how they think the plants should be protected. And if the government rejects their security proposals, the chemical plants can appeal.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is stepping down as head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.As Collins notes, DHS is now able to pre-empt state chemical plant security laws, such as New Jersey's which requires chemical plants to take measures to reduce their vulnerability to catastrophes resulting from terrorist attacks. The New Jersey law also requires 43 (of the state's 140 plants) using the most hazardous chemicals to review the potential for adopting inherently safer technologies.
Collins, who co-wrote the legislation calling for the rules with Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., the committee's incoming chairman, said the department was going too far in some areas, despite having gained much-needed authority to regulate security at chemical facilities and to shut down those that are noncompliant.
The rules "appear to go beyond what Congress authorized" by the department assigning itself authority to pre-empt the legal authority of states and courts and creating other ways "to shield itself from legitimate judicial scrutiny of its own actions."
So, can we trust chemical companies to ensure their own security. As with most voluntary programs, you have some who do a good job and some who don't. Given the cost cutting, maintenance cutbacks and otherwise sorry performance of petroleum giant BP over the past couple of years, the whole thing makes me a bit nervous.
- The US Congress: "Doing Businesses' Bidding" On Chemical Plant Security, October 2, 2006
- Congress Gives Chemical Plant Security To The Chemical Industry, September 25, 2006
- Chemical Plant Security: The Plot Sickens, April 17, 2006
- Homeland Security To Turn Chemical Plant Security Over To Industry, March 21, 2001
- Ho, Hum. Yet More Chem Plant Security Stuff, January 23, 2006
- NY Times Says It's Time To Take Chem Plant Security Seriously, May 22, 2005
- Itty Bitty Steps Forward On Chemical Plant Security?, December 27, 2005
- NJ Issues Chem Plant Safety Regs; Including Safer Technologies, December 1, 2005
- WMD Found! Look Over Your Shoulder, May 9, 2005
- "We can't protect ourselves if we are not part of the plan", February 20, 2005
- NY Chem Company Decides Terrorism Threat Is Over, February 6, 2005
- Department of Homeland Security: Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?, September 27, 2004
- Chris Cox & Tim Russert: Educate Yourselves!, July 17, 2004
- If Safety Was Voluntary, Only Volunteers Would Be Safe, April 8, 2004
- Chemical Industry Steps Up To the Plate...And Strikes Out, June 26, 2003
- Weapons of Mass Destruction Found -- In Our Backyards, November 17, 2003
- The War for Chemical Plant Safety, May 4, 2003