Senate Committee Approves Leaving Millions at Unnecessary Risk

Yesterday the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) failed to take action to protect the public, instead choosing to let millions of Americans remain at unnecessary risk of chemical disasters. The committee members chose to gut a House-passed bill that would have reduced the consequences of a terrorist attack on chemical plants and water treatment facilities. The committee also refused to consider a similar bill from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Both the House bill and the Lautenberg bill would have protected workers and communities by driving the adoption of safer, cost effective technologies that eliminate the threat of an intentionally released cloud of poison gas from a chemical plant.

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Chemical Security Bills Reduce Risk, but Secrecy Weakens Program

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has introduced two related chemical facility security bills that would reduce the consequences of a catastrophic accident or terrorist attack at many of the nation's chemical plants and drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities. The legislation addresses many of the issues raised by a coalition of environmental and openness groups, but it fails to provide the accountability and transparency needed to ensure the government's chemical security program would actually make facilities and communities safe.

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Millions Protected From Toxic Terrorism, Congress Must Act to Protect More

More than 40 million Americans are no longer at risk from a poisonous cloud of gas released from a terrorist attack on water treatment plants thanks to process changes at the plants, according to data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The data, painstakingly compiled and analyzed by the Center for American Progress (CAP), reveal that 554 water treatment facilities across the country have converted to safer chemical processes since 1999. However, millions more remain at risk and the Senate is poised to take on this issue. 

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Transparency: Change You can Trust

In 2008, we heard a lot about "change." In this 2009 year-end summary, we use another type of "change" to rate the Obama administration's transparency efforts thus far.

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House Passes Chemical Security Bill

More than eight years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the House approved legislation that seeks to greatly reduce the risks of terrorist attacks on chemical plants and water treatment facilities. The Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009, passed in a 230-193 vote, includes measures long sought by labor, environmental, and public interest groups, including greater worker participation and the authority for states to implement stronger security standards. However, the House bill lacks measures to ensure an accountable security program that is not hobbled by excessive secrecy.

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OMB Watch Updates Chemical Security Database, Enhancing Public's Right to Know about Potential Risks

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2009—On Oct. 29, OMB Watch posted updated information about the risks of serious public harm posed by thousands of chemical facilities nationwide. The risk management plans of approximately 14,000 facilities that handle more than the threshold amounts of 140 dangerous chemicals are publicly available through the website of the Right-to-Know Network (RTK NET), at www.rtknet.org/db/rmp.

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House Moves to Reduce Risks from Chemical Plants

On Oct. 21, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved two pieces of chemical security legislation that encourage plants to switch to safer and more secure technologies. Although the bills still lack crucial accountability measures, they represent a major improvement over the flawed and inadequate temporary security measures currently in place.

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Chemical Security Bills Make Progress in House

Efforts to improve the security of chemical facilities from terrorist attack took a step forward this week as a House subcommittee passed legislation that encourages plants to switch to safer and more secure technologies. The bills – the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009 and a related bill that addresses security at drinking water facilities – also require participation by plant workers in assessing vulnerabilities and creating a security plan. With no Republican support, the party-line vote in the Energy and Environment subcommittee sends the bills to the full Energy and Commerce committee for another vote, likely next week. Although the bills still lack crucial accountability measures, they represent a major improvement over the flawed and inadequate temporary security measures now in place.

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Chemical Security Legislation Begins to Move Through Congress

The House Homeland Security Committee passed legislation June 23 that would greatly reduce the risks and consequences of a terrorist attack on a chemical facility. The bill also includes small but important improvements in the accountability of the nation's chemical security program. However, industry-sponsored amendments and the continued risk of excessive secrecy during implementation diminish the value of the bill.

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Chemical Security Bill Withstanding Industry Assault

Today the House Homeland Security Committee continues its deliberations on a bill that improves security and accountability at chemical facilities. The bill, which would reauthorize and greatly enhance existing security procedures for chemical plants, has so far weathered well the repeated attacks by committee Republicans to gut it.

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