PALLONE SEEKS COMPREHENSIVE LEGISLATIVE APPROACH TO CHEMICAL SECURITY IN RESPONSE TO GREENPEACE PLAN
In response to several news reports highlighting the lack of security at chemical sites in New Jersey and Louisiana, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today said he will work with Greenpeace to determine whether a more comprehensive legislative approach must be taken to secure chemical facilities around the nat ion, including 11 in the New Jersey that, if targeted, could affect more than one million people.
The New Jersey congressman, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, voiced concern that editorial board writers for The New York Times were able to stand near chemical security plants with backpacks and cameras without ever being approached by security.
Pallone wants to work with Greenpeace to see if parts of its comprehensive plan should be included in overall chemical security legislation in the House. The Greenpeace plan would, among other things, tighten security for chemical facilities, would call for chemical facilities in larger populated areas to move to less-dense locations, would mandate chemical plants use safer chemicals, would encourage the chemical industry to limit dangerous chemicals, and would require government oversight of chemical plants by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Homeland Security.
"More than three years have passed since 9/11 and Congress has yet to seriously address the need to secure our nation's chemical plants," Pallone said. "We're finally seeing some movement in the Senate, but the Bush administration and the House Republican leadership can no longer afford to drag their feet on chemical security. It's time we take serious action to reduce the threat of an attack on a chemical facility, which would endanger millions of lives."
Last month Pallone reintroduced the Chemical Security Act (H.R. 2237), which requires EPA and the Department of Homeland Security to work together to identify "high priority" chemical facilities. Once identified, these facilities would be required to assess vulnerabilities and hazards, and then develop and implement a plan to improve security and use safer technologies within 18 months.
Since he first introduced this legislation in the House in 2002, Pallone h as tried to get the Republican leadership to conduct a congressional hearing on chemical security. The New Jersey congressman welcomed an announcement last week from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox that his committee would hold a hearing on chemical security on June 14. Pallone would also like to see the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over chemical facilities, to follow Cox's lead and schedule a hearing this summer.
In 2003, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report, done at the request of Pallone and U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, that found, with regard to terrorist threats, that no federal agency has assessed the extent of security preparedness of chemical plants; and, no federal requirements are in place to require chemical plants to assess their vulnerabilities and take steps to reduce them.