Eight years after the September 11th attacks, the House of Representatives approved the "Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009," (H.R. 2868) by a vote of 230 to 193. This is the first time either house of Congress has approved permanent and comprehensive chemical security legislation.
Although, it's a compromise, Greenpeace applauds the House as this important bill represents a historic first step toward protecting the 100 million Americans living in the shadow of high-risk chemical plants.
Since 9/11 more than 200 chemical facilities have converted to safer chemical processes, eliminating poison gas risks to more than 30 million Americans. Yet 300 other chemical plants together put 110 million Americans at risk.
Clorox Puts Safety First
Recently, Clorox Company announced plans to convert all of its U.S. factories that use chlorine gas to safer chemical processes over the next few years. The move will eliminate catastrophic risks to more than 13 million Americans living near their facilities. The conversion of Clorox facilities will also eliminate all risks posed by the transport of 90-ton rail cars of chlorine gas to their facilities and suppliers.
In addition, water utility groups and a coalition of more than 50 organizations are urging Congress to enact this legislation. They include: Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the United Auto Workers, Steelworkers, Teamsters, Fire Fighters, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Environmental Defense Fund and Greenpeace.
The Bill, Specifics
The House passed bill (H.R. 2868) will:
- Conditionally require the highest risk plants to use safer chemical processes where feasible and cost-effective and requires the remaining high risk plants to "assess" safer chemical processes;
- Eliminate the current law's exemption of thousands of chemical facilities, such as waste water and drinking water plants and port facilities;
- Involve plant employees in the development of security plans and provides protections for whistleblowers and limit background check abuses;
- Preserve state's authority to establish stronger security standards;
- Provide funding for conversion of plants, including drinking water facilities and wastewater facilities, and
- Allow citizen suits to enforce government implementation of the law.
Next Stop, the Senate
Now the Senate will take up chemical security legislation. Greenpeace hopes they will recognize the urgency of this issue and embrace common sense solutions that eliminate these risks once and for all.