Lautenberg introduces bills to require IST at chemical plants

U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced two pieces of legislation on Wednesday that would reduce the risk posed to communities by chemical facilities, following a report demonstrating chemical security shortcomings.

The report, called "The Danger In Our Backyards," was written by John Deans of Greenpeace. The document cited data from the Environmental Protection Agency that found 12,440 chemical, drinking water and wastewater facilities throughout the U.S. put people at risk of dangerous exposure to chemicals in the event of a terrorist attack or accident. New Jersey is home to five of the chemical plants.

"The risk is great for millions of Americans living in the shadow of the thousands of chemical plants and water treatment facilities across America," Lautenberg said. "These plants provide valuable services, but they also pose significant threats. In New Jersey and our region, more than 12 million people live within proximity of a high-risk plant, and a catastrophic accident or terrorist attack would have devastating consequences."

Lautenberg proposed the Secure Water Facilities Act and the Secure Chemical Facilities Act on Wednesday. The laws would require changes for the highest risk facilities, including the implementation of inherently safer technology to increase public safety, the reduction of the amount of lethal gases stored on site, addressing vulnerability to attack through developing plans to address the vulnerabilities with an emergency plan, protecting sensitive security information from disclosure, letting communities have a role in ensuring facility compliance and the authorization of grants to defray the cost of developing security plans.

"We need to pass my legislation to require facilities to thoroughly review risk and help us move toward more secure plants and safer communities," Lautenberg said. "Hundreds of plants have already switched to safer and more secure chemicals and processes, and this common-sense legislation would build on these achievements and increase safety nationwide."

Lautenberg is a long-time advocate for improving security at chemical facilities. In 2007, he wrote a bill that was signed into law to preserve New Jersey's strong chemical security laws after federal regulations were put in place attempting to preempt stronger security protections.