DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - May 17, 2005)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
I rise in support of the Menendez amendment, and I want to mention to the gentleman that I know that he is also familiar with this issue, being the ranking member on the subcommittee on the Committee on Energy and Commerce that has jurisdiction over chemical security; and I would hope that as time goes on that we could in our committee, in the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and specifically in the gentleman's subcommittee, have a hearing and address this issue in a more comprehensive way because I do think it needs to be addressed.
In the meantime, I agree with the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez), my colleague, that we should provide additional funding in this appropriations bill to have our State and local responders try to address this issue in a significant way or at least provide some funding so that they could.
As the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez) mentioned, we have a number of facilities in our own State of New Jersey where we know that under this EPA report over 1 million people at each of those facilities could be negatively impacted if there was a terrorist attack on a chemical facility. He mentioned at least eight.
In fact, in a hearing just last week in the United States Senate, Mr. Robert Falkenroth, who was a former Bush official with the Homeland Security Department, actually said before the United States Senate that his biggest fear in terms of another terrorist attack would be an attack on a chemical facility. He knows and we know and the Department of Homeland Security knows that this is the one area in the aftermath of 9/11 that has not been addressed.
We have talked about attacking a nuclear plant. We have talked about attacks on port facilities. We have talked about attacks at airports. In every case, there has been an effort by this body to address a terrorist attack and to deal with security issues at those various facilities, but not so in the case of chemical plants. For whatever reason, we have said to the industry that you are on your own; you voluntarily set your own standards. We have not taken action in the House of Representatives or in the Senate to address the issue, and I think that is a shame.
There have been various occasions in the past, most notably in the case of Bhopal, many of my colleagues just remember we just had the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. In the case there, Union Carbide owned a plant. It was not a terrorist attack, but the result there was over 20,000 people killed. That was not because of a terrorist attack. That was because of neglect or negligence on the part of Union Carbide. It had nothing to do with a terrorist attack, but the devastation at Bhopal, not the 20,000 that were killed but the hundreds of thousands in the aftermath of that crisis 20 years later, are still suffering, have not received medical attention, the impact on their children and the disorders that they are now seeing with their children, I mean, this is the type of thing that needs to be addressed, and it is not being addressed here.
I think my understanding is that the gentleman from New Jersey's (Mr. Menendez) amendment would shift $50 million to State and local programs to try to get them to address this issue.
Now, I think we need a comprehensive program. Senator Corzine and myself have introduced the Chemical Security Act, myself here in the House, he in the Senate, which basically establishes a nationwide program that would require that chemical plants provide for security. But absent that, because we have not had that, we have not even had a hearing on it in this House, we need our local responders and our State responders, the way my colleague, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez), has described, to have some money so they can go out and do some things to try to shore up this problem and deal with this problem.
So I just want to say again that this is something we should do. It has been neglected here in the House. Hopefully, we will pass the Menendez amendment. Hopefully, we will have a hearing in our subcommittee, Mr. Chairman, and we can begin the process with this amendment of addressing this very important issue not only for the State of New Jersey but for the Nation as a whole.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Chairman, let me reiterate, or support again what my colleague, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez), said. And I appreciate the comments from our ranking member, but the problem is that the House has not been willing to take up, even in our subcommittee, this issue. In other words, it would be great if we had the opportunity to bring up a bill, I have mentioned the Chemical Security Act, that would actually mandate that companies do in fact come up with their own assessment plans to respond in the event of a terrorist attack. I agree that would be a great thing. But, again, we are not moving in that direction. We have not even had a hearing in our subcommittee on this issue.
Absent that, what we need is some money going back to the States. Because under the Menendez amendment, if money was going back to the States specifically for a chemical security response, then a State like our own of New Jersey would be able to take that funding and basically do some of the things that we would like the Federal Government to do that they are not doing.
So this would accomplish that goal at least for those States that want to take the initiative; that they would have some money for their State and local programs to make the chemical companies respond and do something about this threat. The problem now, as our ranking member said, this is not happening. It is strictly left up to the voluntary efforts of the chemical plants, and that is not a good response.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT