Peter King: Chemical Security Hijacker

by John Deans

June 22, 2011

Today, Greenpeace is releasing the name of a man wanted for hijacking chemical security legislation: Representative Peter T. King. King is part of group responsible for the delay in safeguarding our communities from disasters that could occur at the nation’s chemical plants. Driven by the chemical and oil industries, they have worked for years to undermine public health and safety in order to preserve the dangerous status quo that allows corporations to make huge profits. Even though experts have cited chemical plants as pre-positioned weapons of mass destruction these concerns are ignored in favor of a weak security regime that allows industry representatives to determine security.

Peter King is a Congressman from New York and is the kingpin of the House Homeland Security Committee. In 2009 the House of Representatives had worked hard to pass a compromise bill that would still integrate the most important security measures. Sensing the right political winds hot on the heels of the 2010 election King began forecasting a dark road for chemical security policy . Before he had even taken over the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee he promised that the industry position would get his full support meaning that communities would face several more years of catastrophic risk.

King’s current actions demonstrate a reversal from his position in the 109th Congress. In 2006 he was quoted in Congressional Quarterly as saying that legislation “should not preclude chemical conversions to inherently safer technology, or IST.” This is in stark contrast his current position supporting a bill that does exactly that. The current Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Act prohibits the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from requiring any specific security measure, including safer technologies.

Early in the 112th Congress, King cosponsored Representative Dan Lungren’s H.R. 901, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Authorization Act of 2011. The bill would extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program for a seven year period. As Lungren sent the bill through his subcommittee, King supported Lungren’s opposition to all amendments to fix the inherent problems with the CFATS problem by hiding behind his Republican majority.

With all that chemical and oil industry funding, it should come as little surprise that Rep. Lugren’s H.R. 901 favors the chemical and petro-chemical bottom line over real security concerns. Environmental and labor organizations have found a laundry list of issues with Rep. Lungren’s bill, for instance it does not:

–require high-risk facilities to consider safer chemical processes

–regulate hundreds of port facilities and approximately 2,400 water treatment facilities

–involve workers in emergency planning processes

–allow the DHS to require specific security measures at facilities

The evidence suggests that real security is less important to King and Lungren than the profit margin of his chemical and oil industry donors.

Though it may be hard to pin down how King became radicalized by the industry, a look at the financing of his campaign helps paint a not very pretty picture. King’s campaign records reveal that since 2001 he has received $78,550 from the oil industry, one of the industry sectors that lobbies heavily for weak chemical security standards. He did not receive a penny from the chemical industry (granted many chemical companies are part of the oil sector) until the 2005-2006 cycle when he got a sudden flood of $10,500 dollars for his campaign . This correlates strongly with the rapid change in his position when he began to vote with the industry.

King’s hypocrisy hit new lows when he began his Muslim radicalization witch-hunts as a demonstration that he is serious about terrorism. Greenpeace called him out on the fact that he was creating a distraction from the real terrorism threat of chemical security, and sent a letter asking to meet with him. We also delivered over 20,000 letters from people who agreed with us directly into his hands. That request for a meeting has gone ignored, and yet King has continued to push through weak chemical security policy. On June 22 Greenpeace activists delivered another letter directly to his seat at the head of the committee and also held up a sign labeling him a “Chemical Security Hijacker.”

As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and as a Representative from New York whose citizens are at risk of a chemical disaster, King’s responsibility should be to support the strongest security regime. Instead he is guilty of hijacking the process and steering the legislation in a direction that will leave New York and the country vulnerable to a catastrophic attack.

John Deans

By John Deans

As a former Arctic Campaigner, John worked with lawmakers, coalition partners, activists, and the media in Greenpeace's efforts to protect the Arctic from the dangers of industrial activity.

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