In 2003, the House of Representatives established the Select Committee on Homeland Security, and Ed Markey was chosen by the leadership to serve on this important new panel. His appointment reflected years of work he had undertaken prior to September 11, 2001, to try to increase terrorism preparedness at critical infrastructure such as nuclear power plants and LNG facilities.
It was Ed's legislation in 1979 that first required the siting of LNG facilities outside of densely-populated urban areas. He did not want any other region to make the decision that was made years ago in his own district to site an LNG facility adjacent to downtown Boston.
Since September 11th, Ed has focused intensely on the potential consequences of a terrorist attack at the Liquefied Natural Gas facility in Everett. He has peppered the Transportation Secretary and the Homeland Security Secretary with letters intended to keep our defense high around the facility, which remains the only LNG facility in such a densely populated urban area. His concerns were confirmed recently in April of 2004, as the Department of Homeland Security released information revealing that potential terrorists linked to the Millennium Bomb Plot had entered the U.S. illegally aboard ships carrying shipments of LNG to Everett. Ed continues to urge the Dept. of Homeland Security to increase security efforts at the Everett facility and at other LNG facilities across the country.
For years Ed has also pressed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to take more seriously its obligation to keep nuclear power plants safe from terrorist attack. He exposed the NRC's unwise decision prior to September 11th to abandon mock terrorist drills conducted by the government against individual plants, which the plants were failing 50 percent of the time. He has pressed for modernization of the regulations that set the requirements to be followed at nuclear plants to protect against terrorism, including successful legislation that is intended to yield improvements in how well our country's nuclear power plants prepare for another serious terrorist attack.
Since 2002, Ed and Senator Hilary Clinton (D-NY) have pursued passage of the "Dirty Bomb Protection Act" to ensure secure storage and transport of radioactive materials that could potentially be used to create a destructive dirty bomb, and the majority of the provisions in this bill were enacted into law in 2005. Recently in 2004 Ed led the successful fight to prevent the Bush Administration from eliminating all funding for the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS), a program that helps police officers, fire fighters, medical personnel and other emergency responders develop plans to coordinate their efforts to save lives in response to natural disasters and major terrorist attacks.
Ed has also used his position on the Homeland Security committee to fight for the closing of the "cargo loophole" in our passenger airliner security system. Most people are shocked to learn that commercial cargo is routinely carried in the hold of passenger planes without undergoing any physical screening or inspection at all. Ed successfully led the House to pass his amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill in 2003 that would require physical screening of all passenger cargo, but the initiative was eliminated in conference with the Senate under pressure from the industry and the Bush Administration. Ed will continue to fight for the closure of this dangerous security gap, which puts airline passengers and crew members at risk.
In addition, Ed has introduced comprehensive legislation, the "Secure
Existing Aviation Loopholes (SEAL) Act, to strengthen aviation security though implementation of measures such as the requirement that all airport workers with access to sensitive areas are screened for metal objects and hazardous substances and given background checks that verify Social Security numbers and query terrorist watch lists.
Ed has been a leading advocate of improved port security. After the Bush Administration approved the sale of a maritime company with operations in the U.S. to Dubai Ports World, a firm owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, Ed introduced legislation to reform the process for permitting such transactions. Only about 5 percent of the maritime cargo entering the United States is scanned overseas for explosives. Instead, the Department of Homeland relies upon paperwork checks of ship manifests and similar data checks, rather than scans of the contents inside the containers. Ed is leading the effort to require scanning of 100 percent of all U.S.-bound cargo containers overseas, before they reach our shores.
Ed has also led efforts to ensure that chemical facilities that contain toxic materials that could kill or injure thousands of Americans are required to switch to safer chemicals, technologies or processes whenever feasible. During a 2006 markup of comprehensive chemical security legislation, Ed successfully offered an amendment to require high-risk chemical facilities to implement such 'inherently safer technologies' that would reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack. While the language was agreed to by Republicans on the Committee, the Bush Administration, Congressional Republicans and the chemical industry subsequently secretly conspired to push through weak, inadequate provisions agreed to behind closed doors. Ed will continue to fight for his own much stronger chemical security language in the next Congress.
Ed has also consistently called for improvements to the security associated with shipments of extremely hazardous materials. Rail shipments that contain enough chlorine to kill or injure 100,000 people within the first half an hour of an attack or accident regularly travel right through crowded urban areas. Ed and has authored legislation to beef up the physical security of such toxic shipments, including a requirement that they be rerouted around areas of concern such as densely populated areas when a safer route exists.