23 September 2002 22:01 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--Opposition grew Monday the Corzine chemical plant security bill as West Virginia's top public safety official called the measure "a badly flawed proposal that would impede efforts to improve security at chemical facilities."
In a letter to Senator John Rockefeller (Democrat-West Virginia), Joe Martin, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said he is concerned the bill proposed by US Senator Jon Corzine (Democrat-New Jersey) would "disrupt the significant progress we have made" in protecting chemical facilities and other critical infrastructure from a potential terrorist attack.
Martin said he and emergency response officials throughout the US have been working with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to "establish comprehensive procedures to evaluate possible vulnerabilities and enhance site security."
In addition, he noted that the ACC has been cooperating with a variety of federal and state officials, including emergency response and law enforcement personnel, "to ensure that we are prepared to defend against any threats to these facilities."
Corzine has said he intends to offer his bill as an amendment to the broad homeland security legislation now under debate on the Senate floor.
The measure would establish strict new security guidelines for facilities that manufacture, use or store hazardous substances. But chemical industry officials and others argue the bill could stall voluntary initiatives already under way and place too great a burden on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"In contrast to an aggressive timetable adopted by ACC member companies, under the provisions of the Corzine bill implementation to tighter security would come to a virtual standstill," Martin wrote.
He said: "In addition, the bill assigns principal responsibility for chemical site security to the EPA--an agency with no security expertise."
Martin urged Rockefeller to oppose any attempt to attach Corzine's proposal to the homeland security legislation.
He said: "We need to consolidate facility security responsibilities under the Department of Homeland Security and to continue the sensible public-private partnerships that have advanced our critical infrastructure since 11 September."
The fate of the Corzine bill rests with Senate Democratic leaders who must decide which amendments they want to consider as the sweeping debate on homeland security continues for a third week.
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