Chemical Security Legislation Moves Forward

The House Homeland Security Committee is holding a hearing today on legislation designed to protect tens of millions of Americans against a terrorist attack on a high-hazard chemical facility. This legislation, The Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Act of 2009, H.R. 2868, would push chemical facilities to convert to safer alternative chemicals or processes, something the Center for American Progress strongly supports.

The Department of Homeland Security currently carries out chemical security under temporary standards that are set to expire in October. These standards, enacted in 2006, focus almost entirely on physical security such as guards and gates. Physical security, however, cannot assure protection against a concerted attack, insider sabotage, or a catastrophic accident.

In November 2008 CAP identified the nation’s 101 most dangerous chemical facilities, each of which threaten 1 million or more people living within range of a worst-case toxic gas release. The vast majority of these facilities could convert to safer and more secure chemical alternatives or processes. Indeed, many facilities have already made such conversions.

A previous report by the Center for American Progress in 2006 identified 284 facilities in 47 states that have adopted safer alternatives, taking 38 million people out of harm’s way. Another CAP report also identified 25 water utilities that eliminated railcar shipments of chlorine gas by converting to safer alternatives for water treatment. These conversions removed the threat to 25 million Americans living in sur rounding communities and millions more along rail delivery routes.

Safer and more secure alternatives fix the root of the problem—what a facility doesn’t have can’t be blown up by terrorists. The country needs chemical security legislation that puts this basic idea into action.

Reece Rushing is director of regulatory and information policy at American Progress.

Read CAP reports on chemical security:

Chemical Security 101

Toxic Trains and the Terrorist Threat

Preventing Toxic Terrorism

New Strategies to Protect America: Securing Our Nation’s Chemical Facilities