On June 22, we unmasked Rep. Peter King as a hijacker of chemical security and today we’re unveiling two more: Representative Dan Lungren (R-CA), and Mr. Cal Dooley, CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC). They, like King, are pushing legislation that would leave millions of Americans vulnerable to chemical disasters. While experts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have repeatedly testified that the nation’s highest risk chemical plants should be subject to requirements to use the safest chemical processes available, Lungren and Dooley continue to gamble that aging chemical plants won’t be attacked or experience a catastrophic accident. Instead, they are determined to extend a weak temporary law riddled with exemptions and loopholes until 2018.
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. Early in the 112th Congress, Rep. Lungren introduced H.R. 901, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Authorization Act of 2011. This bill would merely extend the 740 word interim Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) enacted in 2006 for seven more years. The first legislative venue was Lungren’s subcommittee, where it passed without a hitch. In doing so, Lungren used his Republican majority to vote down Democratic amendments that would have closed the security gaps and untied the hands of the DHS to prevent chemical disasters.
The chemical companies have liberally supported Lungren’s laissez-faire attitude toward chemical security. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Lungren’s campaign war chest has benefited from the oil, gas and chemical industries. In the 2010 election cycle, the oil & gas industry gave $52,200 toward Lungren’s re-election ($10,000 of which came from the infamous Koch Industries). The chemical industry also chipped in another $11,000.
With all this industry money, it’s little surprise that Lugren’s H.R. 901 mirrors the lobbying agenda of the chemical and petro-chemical industry. Environmental and labor organizations have pointed out the fatal flaws with Lungren’s bill (and current law) which include the:
- Failure to allow the DHS to require specific security measures at facilities
- Failure to involve plant employees in development of security plans
- Failure to include hundreds of port facilities and approximately 2,400 water treatment facilities in the chemical security program
- Failure to require the highest risk facilities to use safer available chemical processes
Rep. Lungren is well-aware of these flaws. The Democratic members of his subcommittee offered amendments that would correct all of these problems but they were rejected. Nevertheless, the Democratic point was clear: CFATS is currently inadequate to combat the threat that terrorists pose to chemical facilities. Yet, despite the evidence Lungren and his Republican majority voted to extend this flawed program unchanged. Apparently, real security is less important to Lungren than the profit margin of his chemical and oil industry donors.
In July of 2006, Lungren actually supported the most important policy when Republicans were worried about losing the election. At that time, his Committee adopted H.R. 5695, which would have required the highest risk plants to adopt safer more secure chemical processes. At the time, he admitted to the Associated Press, "In an election year, when you're coming up on September, and you're coming up on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, members both in the House and Senate are going to start looking at what they can show in way of accomplishment in the area of security." Of course, Lungren eventually voted for a back room deal that hijacked H.R. 5695. That deal was a 740 word interim “rider” on a DHS funding bill which contained all the loopholes and security gaps now still in CFATS. It was passed solely to give Congress time to pass a comprehensive program but it also contained each of the priorities that the chemical lobby’s had pushed for.
Even in 2009, when the first comprehensive chemical security bill (H.R. 2868) passed the House, Lungen voted against it because it contained disaster prevention legislation opposed by the chemical lobby. Lungren’s leadership on the Homeland Security Committee has been responsive only to one sector of industry. H.R. 901 will not protect the millions of people living near high risk chemical plants and he most recently has shot down a opportunity for a true compromise that would eliminate these risks. Rep. Lungren has not only helped hijack chemical security legislation this year, his record shows that he’s a repeat offender.
Cal Dooley is the CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a multimillion-dollar lobbying juggernaut. In advancing its chemical security interests, the ACC has employed an average of 19 lobbyists over the last three years to influence policymakers. All of these lobbyists have listed chemical security legislation as part of their portfolio. In 2010 alone, the ACC spent $8,130,000 to influence public policy. Dooley and the ACC have led the industry lobbying campaign to hijack comprehensive chemical security.
The ACC boasts more than 150 distinct member companies and among its more high-profile members are household names such as the Dow Chemical Company and Dupont. Among the chemical industry trade associations, the ACC has continuously out lobbied its peers on matters of chemical security legislation. In fact, the ACC has fixated on striking down comprehensive chemical security legislation since the introduction of the first bill in 2001. Dooley, a former Democratic Congressman from California, took over the ACC in 2008 and has been a vocal opponent of disaster prevention requirements in his opinion pieces and in his comments to the media. Lobbying reports filed by the ACC also implicate Dooley in using his congressional clout to oppose the adoption of a robust chemical security program.
Beyond lobbying activities, Dooley’s position as head of the ACC gives him a pulpit from which he works to mislead the public. For example, in 2009 he stated that chlorine gas would have to be made at an alternative location in order for Clorox to eliminate its catastrophic risk. Such comments perpetuate a fallacy that converting plants to safer technologies will shift the risk to another location. In reality, Clorox is transitioning its facilities to a “just-in-time” process that will eliminate bulk shipment and storage of chlorine gas, a process that reduces the overall risk. Millions of people living in the shadow of Clorox’s converted facilities will no longer be at risk of a chlorine gas disaster. Moreover, nothing in the current CFATS program prevents chemical companies from shifting risks or creating new hazards.
Despite Clorox’s success story, Dooley and the ACC oppose legislation that would conditionally require the most dangerous chemical plants to transition to safer available processes. These safer alternatives could protect millions of people from the catastrophic consequences of a terrorist attack or of a severe chemical accident.
Dooley and the ACC recently opposed the scientifically based classification of formaldehyde as a known carcinogen. Koch Industries and the ACC have garnered widespread criticism for their continued denial of the long-term health effects of this chemical. In fact, it has long been suspected that low level exposure to this chemical can cause cancer. A catastrophic release of formaldehyde also poses an acute hazard to fence-line communities as exposure to high doses of this chemical can lead to sudden injuries and death.
Unfortunately, Dooley is not the only ACC lobbyist with “revolving door” connections that give trade association easy access and influence in Congress. At least four of the ACC’s lobbyists on matters of chemical security, registered from 2009 to 2011, have also served in the Congress as staffers, legislative assistants, and in other capacities. These lobbyists have given the ACC an enormous advantage in pedaling their influence with key lawmakers on chemical security policy.
As the head of the ACC and its chief policy maker, Cal Dooley is a lead hijacker of chemical security legislation which has resulted in continued risks to millions of Americans.