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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 25, 2002
2:46 PM
CONTACT:  U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Jeremiah Baumann, (202) 546-9707
Senate Committee Applauded for Unanimous Passage of Chemical Security Plan
Statement of Jeremiah Baumann, Environmental Health Advocate
 
WASHINGTON - July 25 - The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today took the government's first step since September 11th to address an Achilles' heel of our infrastructure - the use and storage of highly hazardous materials in thousands of American communities.

Approximately 15,000 industrial facilities nationwide use and store significant quantities of toxic or flammable chemicals like, chlorine and ammonia, that put large numbers of American at risk of serious injury or death in the event of a chemical release. One hundred twenty-three facilities in the U.S. have at least one million people living close enough to the plant to be harmed by a chemical release. Security at these facilities ranges from poor to non-existent. An investigation by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review disclosed that a reporter entered and walked through more than 60 facilities in western Pennsylvania, Chicago, Houston, and Baltimore unchallenged.

Today a bipartisan group of Senators endorsed sensible action to remedy this significant threat to our security, health, and safety. We applaud Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) for his leadership in crafting the Chemical Security Act and bringing the committee to address the threat of chemical terrorism. We applaud Senators James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and Bob Smith (R-NH) for sending this bill to the full Senate with bi-partisan support.

Despite aggressive lobbying by the chemical and oil industries against mandatory security & safety requirements, this committee has sent a strong signal to the Senate leadership, the House of Representatives, and the Bush administration that the threat of chemical terrorism must be addressed. We now look to the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass this chemical security plan with the Homeland Security bill currently being crafted.

The bill passed by the committee will require EPA, working with the Office of Homeland Security, to prioritize facilities based on the hazard they pose, and require facilities to assess their vulnerability to attack, analyze the hazards that could result, and develop a plan to reduce both. Importantly, these plans will be based on making facilities inherently safer - by reducing the use of hazardous materials or switching to safer materials and processing conditions - as well as on improving secondary safety equipment and increasing site security. Hundreds of facilities have switched to safer materials, reducing or eliminating the degree their chance of becoming a terrorist target by reducing or eliminating the possibility that a chemical release could harm nearby residents.

U.S. PIRG is the national lobbying office for the state Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy groups.

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