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Pallone Calls for Inclusion of Chemical Security Provision in Homeland Security Bill

Location: Washington, DC


U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today called for the passage of a Democratic substitute to the Republican Homeland Security Authorization Bill that includes a chemical security provision similar to language in a more comprehensive chemical security bill that he introduced last week. The Democratic substitute was defeated by the House Republican majority.

The New Jersey congressman, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today praised House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox (R-CA) for agreeing to hold a hearing on chemical security on June 14. Pallone will continue to urge his own committee, which has jurisdiction over chemical security, to also hold a hearing in the near future. Pallone made the following statement on the Democratic substitute.

"Chemical security is an issue of critical importance to the safety of many of my constituents and to our national security, and one that the House has not yet dealt with nearly four years after September 11th.

"Some of you may have seen a recent article in the New York Times about a chemical plant in Kearny, New Jersey that holds so many dangerous substances that intentional sabotage or an accident poses a lethal threat to 12 million people. At ten other facilities in the state, a release of toxic gas could kill upwards of one million people.

"Across the country, the EPA has identified 123 facilities where a toxic gas release due to a terrorist attack could injure or kill more than 1 million people. These numbers are more than enough to make us realize that chemical plant security is a serious national issue that demands immediate attention. The substitute would give this problem the attention it needs.

"We already know what the nightmare scenario of a chemical plant attack would look like. On the night of December 2nd, 1984, 27 tons of highly toxic gas leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. None of the plant's safety systems worked, and area residents knew nothing of the disaster until they either suffered the effects of the gas or heard their neighbors screaming. The most up-to-date estimates say that 20,000 people died as a result of the leak and another 120,000 were injured.

"Bhopal stands as a horrid reminder of what could happen here in the United States if we do not take chemical plant security seriously. The potential for loss of human life from a serious accident or terrorist attack on a chemical facility here is staggering.

"We saw that chemical incidents can occur in this country when, in January, a rail tanker carrying chlorine gas crashed in Graniteville, South Carolina, killing nine and sending 58 to the hospital. That was just from one small rail crash -- the consequences of a release at a large facility are unimaginable.

"Immediate action should have been taken after the wake-up call we got from the 9/11 attacks. That is why I have introduced the Chemical Security Act in the past two Congresses. Unfortunately, the House has never considered my legislation.

"The House needs to take action on chemical security. We have dealt with port security, airline security, nuclear security, and even cybersecurity. Now we need to deal with what could be one of the biggest threats to our homeland."

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