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Illinois and New Jersey Senators Introduce Legislation to Drastically Improve Security at Chemical Plants

Location: Chicago, IL

Illinois and New Jersey Senators Introduce Legislation to Drastically Improve Security at Chemical Plants
Two Plants in Chicago Area Could Threaten More than 1 million People

CHICAGO - U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today introduced legislation to drastically improve security at our nation's chemical plants.

"There may be no greater failure of our government than the fact that we have done almost nothing to secure one of America's most vulnerable targets - the 15,000 chemical plants in America," said Obama. "These chemical plants represent some of the most attractive targets for terrorists looking to cause widespread death and destruction. Despite this, security at our chemical plants is voluntary - left to the individual plant owners. While many chemical plant owners have taken steps to beef up security, too many have not. In Illinois, there have been recent reports by ABC-7 in Chicago of chemical plants with dilapidated fences, insufficient guard forces, and unprotected tanks of hazardous chemicals. These plants are basically stationary weapons of mass destruction. Their security is light, their facilities are easily entered, and their contents are deadly."

"Chemical plant security is a serious problem and the combination of lax security and deadly chemicals is a toxic mix," said Durbin. "Illinois has more facilities that store extremely hazardous materials then any other state- with over 100,000 pounds of hazardous substances stored in over 600 facilities. It is unacceptable that we have chemical plant facilities in our state and in other parts of this country that anyone can stroll onto. This bill puts a lock on the door and real fencing in the yard."

There are 111 facilities in the United States where a worst-case scenario attack on a chemical plant could threaten more than one million people, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Two of these facilities are within Chicago's city limits. Illinois has at least 11 facilities where a large-scale chemical release could threaten more than a million people.

The Chemical Safety and Security Act of 2006 would replace current weak voluntary chemical plant security standards with a clear set of federal regulations that all plants must abide by. Plants that are considered a high risk to large population areas or critical infrastructure would face more stringent standards.

Plant owners and employees would work together to tailor their security plans to address each individual facility's vulnerabilities, but they would face tough penalties for noncompliance. The bill would also protect the right of states to establish security standards that fit local needs so that states like New Jersey that have been leaders in chemical security do not see their current laws weakened.

The bill addresses all methods to reduce risk, including physical security such as security forces, perimeter defenses, hazard mitigation and emergency response. But the bill also requires the use of safer technologies to reduce the attractiveness of chemical plants as a target. This concept, known as Inherently Safer Technology, involves methods such as changing the flow of chemical processes to avoid dangerous chemical byproducts, reducing the pressures or temperatures of chemical reactions to minimize the risk of explosions, reducing inventories of dangerous chemicals and replacing dangerous chemicals with benign ones. Each one of these methods reduces the danger that chemical plants pose to our communities and makes them less appealing targets for terrorists.

"Safety regulations can be implemented in a way that is flexible enough for the industry yet stringent enough to protect the American people," Senator Obama said. "It is long past time to put the security of our nation ahead of special interests or politics. Now is the time to act to protect our citizens."

"This is a comprehensive bill that will satisfy the need for tighter security at chemical plants with a minimum of disruption for chemical manufacturers," said Durbin. "It not only increases onsite security, it calls for stricter rules on chemical production and protects employees who expose security risks. We need tough, enforceable standards for chemical plant security and this bill will move us much closer to that goal."

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