Take Action: Chemical Security Long Overdue
by Guest Blogger, 4/4/2005
A recent accident at a Texas oil refinery reminds us of the need for Congress to pass chemical security legislation that identifies hazardous chemical-using facilities and requires company plans both for reducing chemical hazards and improving site security through safer materials or processes wherever feasible. Thousands of facilities around the country place millions of Americans at risk from the potential release of deadly chemicals. For several years, Congress has considered and reconsidered chemical security legislation that would encourage companies to reduce chemical hazards at these facilities. Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) has repeatedly introduced bills that would require facilities that use large quantities of hazardous chemicals to evaluate safer chemicals and technologies to reduce safety and security risks. Companies that pursue these opportunities would have less severe accidents when problems occur and pose less tempting targets for possible terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, Congress has repeatedly failed to act on this issue. A March 23 accident at BP Amoco's Texas City refinery, which killed 15 employees and injured over 100 people, illustrates the high cost of inaction. According to reports BP filed with the Environmental Protection Agency, the accident could have been even worse. The Texas City refinery stores 800,000 pounds of deadly hydrofluoric acid onsite, threatening the lives and health of more than half a million people in its 25-mile "vulnerability zone." However, oil refineries can replace hydrofluoric acid with sulfuric acid, a much safer chemical that many other refineries are already using. While Corzine has not yet reintroduced his legislation to Congress this session, the Texas City accident demands that Congress finally take action. More than three years since the 9/11 attacks, there is still no national policy to assess and reduce chemical vulnerabilities wherever practical. Urge your representatives to support chemical security legislation.