On August 19th Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) responded to a
coalition of groups in Maine and Greenpeace along with nearly 10,000 petition cards from across the U.S. urging her take leadership on chemical security legislation.
Unfortunately Senator Collins defense of the chemical industry and continuing opposition to legislation that would eliminate catastrophic risks undermines the security of thousands of vulnerable American communities. The temporary law she negotiated actually bars the government from requiring the use of safer technologies that can eliminate these risks.
Among the communities at risk are those living near approximately 3,000 water treatment plants. All these plants are also exempted from the temporary law Senator Collins negotiated. Many of these each threaten thousands of citizens due to their use of chlorine gas, some put more than 1 million people at risk.
Senator Collins also failed to mention that the temporary law she negotiated expires on October 4, 2009 leaving no program in place unless Congress enacts permanent legislation this year or next. But after two years legislation has yet to move in the Senate.
In the House, the "Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008" (H.R. 5577) was adopted on March 6th by the Homeland Security Committee in a bi-partisan vote.
H.R. 5577 conditionally requires the use of safer technologies if they are shown to be feasible, cost effective and will not shift risks to other U.S. facilities. H.R. 5577 also allows each facility to select the safer technology best suited for their plant.
Today, almost seven years after September 11th, the potential for loss of life and economic disruption from such an attack is staggering. The U.S. Army Surgeon General study estimated that 900,000 to 2.4 million people could be killed or injured in a terrorist attack on a U.S. chemical plant in a densely populated area.
Congress must enact permanent comprehensive legislation that will reduce or eliminate these hazards not simply continue to gamble on more guards and fences. That means enacting a law that protects communities by making use of solutions that have already eliminated risks to millions.
Coalition letter to Senator Collins >>
Senator Collins' response >>
Greenpeace's complete response >>