The Senate Homeland Security Committee today will consider legislation proposed by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) intended to protect Americans from possible terrorist attacks on vulnerable chemical facilities. The bill contains positive elements, but more needs to be done to push facilities to adopt safer chemical alternatives.
The Center for American Progress, in a recent report, "Preventing Toxic Terrorism: How Some Chemical Facilities Are Removing Danger to American Communities," notes that more than 38 million Americans are substantially safer because of recent safety and security improvements at over 280 chemical facilities in 47 states. The report, however, also shows that millions more could be taken out of harm’s way if similar improvements are made at other facilities.
The Department of Homeland Security and numerous security experts warn that terrorists could turn hazardous chemical facilities into improvised weapons of mass destruction by setting off a catastrophic toxic gas release. The facilities identified by CAP replaced acutely hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives that do not have the potential to drift off-site. As a result, these facilities are less appealing terrorist targets and no longer threaten surrounding communities with the possibility of a toxic gas release.
This is the direction the Senate Homeland Security Committee should take as it considers the new legislation. “Adopting safer chemicals is the only certain way to protect American communities from a toxic gas release,” says Paul Orum, a chemical safety consultant who was commissioned by CAP to conduct the survey. “Site security measures, such as fences and security guards, cannot ensure protection against a terrorist strike or catastrophic accident. Replacing hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives removes the danger.”
For more details on CAP's chemical plant safety proposals, please see: