Five Years Since 9/11: More Secrecy, Less Security

Monday marked the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, yet the government's efforts to secure the nation against another terrorist attack have been minimal, leaving the country's chemical plants, ports, and other installations dangerously unsecured while increasing secrecy and intrusion into civil liberties.

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Safer Chemicals Provision Improves Federal Chemical Security Bill

The House Homeland Security Committee on July 27 passed what is being hailed by public interest groups as a substantially improved chemical security bill, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (H.R. 5695). The bill, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-CA), establishes security requirements for our nation's chemical facilities, something that critics charge is long overdue. The original bill, however, had serious flaws, among them failing to require companies to use safer technologies and preempting states and localities from establishing their own security programs.

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Chemical Security Debate Continues in House

The House Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to mark up chemical security legislation later this week. The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (H.R. 5695), introduced by Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-CA) last month, currently has ten cosponsors. Critics of the bill, including a number of environmental and public interest groups, charge that it would actually lead to less security for our nation's chemical plants.

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Chemical Security: Moving Forward

The Senate will likely take another step this week toward establishing national security requirements for chemical facilities. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is expected to mark up chemical security legislation during a business meeting this Wednesday, June 14. The frontrunner bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), the Chair and ranking minority member, respectively, includes a number of important reporting requirements for chemical facilities.

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NJ Report Highlights Need for Chemical Safety Requirements

A chemical catastrophe at any one of six New Jersey facilities could seriously injure or kill nearly one million people living in the area, according to a May 23 report by the New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC). The report, Safety & Security First: Protecting Our Jobs, Families, and Hometowns from Toxic Chemical Disaster, concludes that chemical plant security must become a top priority for federal and state lawmakers.

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Path to Chemical Security Is Clear, But Overlooked

Approximately 284 facilities in 47 states have reduced risks to nearby communities from hazardous chemicals by switching to safer chemical processes or moving to safer locations, according to an Apr. 24 report by the Center for American Progress (CAP). Preventing Toxic Terrorism highlights the need for a national program to encourage thousands of other chemical facilities to become safer neighbors through the use of alternative, inherently safer chemicals and technologies.

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There's a New Chemical Security Bill in Town

On March 30, Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced a new bill on chemical plant security, The Chemical Security and Safety Act, with a major improvement over current chemical security proposals: it includes a requirement that chemical plants consider inherently safer technologies. The bill also establishes a more active role for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the implementation of chemical security requirements.

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Little Progress on Chemical Security

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded recently that, while some progress has been made on chemical security, hurdles and delays remain, including a lack of clear authority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish requirements for chemical facilities. The GAO reported its findings in a report released Feb. 27 on the current status of chemical security at DHS. The GAO also found DHS resistant to involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a review of inherently safer technologies that might reduce risks posed by chemical plants.

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Openness: The Best Defense Against Bioterrorism

The National Research Council (NRC) concluded, in a recent report on biochemical research and bioterrorism safeguards, that an open and free exchange of scientific research and ideas is an important component of efforts to protect the country from a biochemical attack or accident. Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences recommends several measures to reduce the risk of an attack using biological weapons or an accident involving biological agents and technology.

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Collins' Revised Chemical Security Bill: An Improving Grade

Shortly before Congress broke for recess in December, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, introduced the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005 (S. 2145). The bill, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Carl Levin (D-MI), is a significant improvement over the draft bill previously evaluated by OMB Watch (see Failing Grade on Chemical Security, The OMB Watcher [Dec. 13, 2005]), but still fails to require reporting on the use of safer technologies.

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