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Friday, April 29, 2005

Better living despite chemicals?

The Boston Globe headline from yesterday is accurate: "Chemical plants are vulnerable, specialists warn; Former Bush adviser urges law calling for improved security."
Richard Falkenrath, who was Bush's deputy homeland security adviser until May 2004, decried the fact that nearly four years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress has yet to pass a law giving the Homeland Security Department the authority to enforce security standards at chemical plants.

''When you look at all of the different targets for a potential attack in the United States and ask yourself which ones present the greatest possibility of mass casualties and are the least well-secured at the present time, one target set flies off the page, and that's chemicals," Falkenrath said. ''This is an absolutely inescapable conclusion. It is one that was very apparent to me in my official capacity, and it remains apparent to me now as a private citizen."
Tens of millions of Americans live near these plants.
The Environmental Protection Agency says 15,000 facilities use enough toxic chemicals to pose a threat to surrounding communities, including 123 where the rupture of a single tank could endanger the lives of at least a million people.
Essentially, the Bush administration has not said anything about this problem since October 2002 when Tom Ridge and Christie Todd Whitman said that voluntary security measures at chemical plants did not provide sufficient security.

Predictably, industry fears government regulation and Republican members of Congress are reluctant to act because of these business concerns.

Terror expert Richard Clarke has been worried about such attacks as well. And I previously blogged about Matthew Brzezinski's devastating critique of US homeland security efforts on this and other problems last fall.

Clarke might ask: What will industry and Congress say after a chemical 9/11?

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