17 April 2002 21:20 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--The American Chemistry Council (ACC) will commit to installation of safer equipment and processes plus independent verification of plant vulnerability assessments as part of its plan for bolstering safety and security measures, CNI learned Wednesday.
The organisation will present the plan in June at its annual meeting through the addition of a seventh code to its Responsible Care program focused on enhancing security at its facilities. The new code will require the group's more than 200 member companies to assess security vulnerabilities at individual plants and then take steps to close any gaps.
According to a preliminary outline of the security guidelines, the code will require "implementation of security measures commensurate with risks, including consideration of inherently more secure approaches" such as design, materials and controls.
Using inherently safer approaches, companies could make technological improvements that would reduce the risk of a major chemical release in the event of an attack and minimise the possibility of an accidental release.
Chemical industry officials intend to use the mandatory security code requirements to argue that federal legislation is not needed to improve the safety and security of their plants.
A bill sponsored by Senator John Corzine (Democrat-New Jersey) would give the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to inventory risks that could be exploited at chemical facilities nationwide, including the volume and types of chemicals stored, and designate plants as being at high potential risk.
To reduce risks, companies would have to create buffer zones separating plants from residents and adopt inherently safer technologies.
But the chemical industry strongly opposes the bill, arguing that companies are already moving on their own to beef up security. In addition, they are concerned that publicly disclosing information about toxic hazards and security problems could put dangerous data in the hands of potential terrorists.
Industry officials are also worried that under Corzine's proposal, corporate executives could be held responsible for simply operating their facilities if they were attacked.
Under the ACC plan, companies are first required to prioritise plants based on levels of potential risk using a tiered ranking system the group sent to its members last month. Beginning with the most dangerous plants, companies would assess security risks using a vulnerability assessment methodology being developed by the government's Sandia National Laboratories.
Companies would then take steps to address the identified risks, such as installing inherently safer technology. Third party auditors, such as local police, fire and emergency medical personnel, would verify the new security measures.
ACC has been soliciting comments from stakeholders on the preliminary outline of its security code and extensive discussions are expected to take place 21-24 April at an industry conference on Responsible Care in Miami, Florida.
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