03 April 2005 00:15 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--High-level US officials say chemical plants are the next focus for federal anti-terrorism security work, and more members of Congress are demanding higher safety and security standards for the nation’s 60,000 railroad chemical tank cars.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have said that as the ?xml:namespace>
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At least three senators have called for higher design and construction standards for chemical rail tank cars. The legacy of the September 2001 terrorist attacks combined with recent rail accidents involving chemical tank car ruptures and multiple fatalities has drawn renewed attention to tank cars and the possibility that terrorists could target large volume chemical cargoes in or near population centres.
DHS has said chemical plants are among a large number of “
Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat-
In addition to raising tank car construction and survivability standards - an objective shared with Senators Byron Dorgan (Democrat-North Dakota) and Jon Corzine (Democrat-New Jersey) who are sponsoring legislation of their own - Schumer wants to put a 15-year limit on the use of tank cars. He wants additional funding to double the number of inspectors at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to 800 and new authority for the FRA to impose stiff fines on tank car owners that do not keep their rolling stock up to regulatory minimums for safety and security.
For chemical plants, the principal issue of the post-9/11 security debate is whether chemicals manufacturers have done enough on their own - or whether they must yield to widespread demands that the
In general, US chemicals manufacturers hold that they have done a great deal to beef-up security at their plant sites, including more guards, more fences, sharply restricted access and greater liaison with local, state and national police and security forces. In large part they argue that more legislation and yet another layer of regulatory intrusion for the industry will not measurably increase plant site security and might even impede improvements that are being made voluntarily.
Bob Slaughter, president of the Washington, DC-based National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said: “Our industry was working on plant site security and had been working on it since before 9/11. But since then, site security has been front and centre for both the chemicals industry and refiners.”
“We’re not sure additional legislation is necessary,” Slaughter said. “Both petrochemicals manufacturers and refiners have made great strides in increasing security at their sites since 9/11. They have improved security at their plants and have become far more integrated with their state and local security agencies and with the US Coast Guard.”
“At this point,” Slaughter argued, “enactment of plant site security legislation could really hinder the very productive efforts that are ongoing.”
Rob McArver, director of government relations for Washington, DC-based Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), said SOCMA member firms - a broad variety of chemicals manufacturers who work in the batch and specialty sector - are afraid the imprecise hand of federal security mandates would fall most heavily and harmfully on batch producers.
SOCMA holds that no additional federal law or regulations are necessary to improve security at US chemical manufacturing, storage and transportation sites. “We have done an awful lot on our own,” McArver said, citing work by SOCMA member firms through the “Responsible Care” program to increase security at their plant sites.
The other major
Arlington, Virginia-based ACC said in a statement: “We are continuing to take a leadership role in urging Congress and the administration to pass chemical industry security legislation.” The ACC said Congress “should give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to require all chemical facilities to address security as rigorously as we have.”
The ACC argued that unless all chemical production sites, storage areas and transit points are made safer, the industry remains vulnerable. ACC president and chief executive Thomas Reilly said: “The truth, though, is that lax chemical plant security is unacceptable, and everyone concerned needs to stop playing politics and get the job done.”
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