Bush Administration Leaves Nation Vulnerable to Attacks on Chemical Facilities

 

Media release - November 17, 2003
Following a damning "60 Minutes" story on the vulnerability of the nation's chemical plants to terrorist attack, Greenpeace provided the White House today with a list of facilities that reported risks to populations of one million or more. This list accompanied a letter to President Bush, charging his administration with two years of neglect on this crucial homeland security issue.

Following a damning "60 Minutes" story on the vulnerability of the nation's chemical plants to terrorist attack, Greenpeace provided the White House today with a list of facilities that reported risks to populations of one million or more. This list accompanied a letter to President Bush, charging his administration with two years of neglect on this crucial homeland security issue. Greenpeace also called for a series of measures to diminish and eliminate these threats. The global environmental organization provided key data to "60 Minutes" for its story.

"The foot-dragging by an administration that claims Homeland Security as its number one priority is shocking. Almost nothing has been done to protect the nation from terrorists who could turn chemical plants and rail cars into weapons of mass destruction," said Rick Hind, Toxics Campaign Legislative Director for Greenpeace. "The White House has only supported minor voluntary initiatives proposed by the chemical industry itself. Chemical safety should not be optional."

Using publicly available data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Greenpeace identified 112 facilities in 25 states, with the top 20 threatening between 2.8 and 12 million people. More than two-thirds of these facilities store or use chlorine. The 25 states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

In its letter, Greenpeace urged the President to take action on three fronts: issue new regulations to encourage plant design changes and conversion to safer technologies, support meaningful legislation(S. 157) to prevent chemical disasters, and prohibit the transport of hazardous chemicals through highly populated areas such as Washington, D.C.

Terrorism experts from agencies such as the EPA, the Department of Justice, the General Accounting Office and the FBI have thoroughly documented the nation's vulnerability to toxic releases at U.S. chemical plants. This vulnerability is not limited to an intentional terrorist attack. Lax business practices or an accident could result in a deadly release similar to that experienced in Bhopal, India in 1984, when a gas leak at a pesticide plant killed 8,000 within three days.

"The answer isn't merely higher fences or more security guards," said Hind. "Safer substitutes exist for chlorine, ammonia, hydrogen fluoride and other ultra-hazardous chemicals. We can and should neutralize this threat by eliminating the unnecessary use of highly toxic substances, beginning with those that threaten the largest numbers of people first."

Click here to read the letter Greenpeace sent to Bush.

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