Thursday, April 22, 2010

Collins and Deadly Chemicals

Terrorism is such a serious threat that Sen. Collins favors suspending the Constitution when suspects are apprehended.

But more stringent oversight for the manufacturers of deadly chemicals? To prevent a cataclysm? That's a bridge too far:

Although he left his stressful job with the Environmental Protection Agency nearly seven years ago, Bob Bostock says there's one scenario that still keeps him awake at night: A terrorist breaches a chemical plant's chlorine storage tank in, say, northern New Jersey, unleashing a toxic cloud that kills thousands.

"It's not that hard to do," said Bostock, EPA's top homeland security policy adviser from 2001 to 2003. "It doesn't require a high level of sophistication and in some cases doesn't even require access to the facility. It's something that could be done from off site."


Legislation passed by the House last fall would require major manufacturers and users of such deadly gases as chlorine to consider converting to safer alternatives and submit to stricter oversight by the Department of Homeland Security...

The current law, which was enacted in 2006 and expires in October, is weak, according to Rick Hind, legislative director for Greenpeace. "The standards are, for the most part, voluntary," Hind said. "They’re very industry-friendly. The House bill is much more enforceable."

But the chemical lobby is pushing back.

At a March 3 hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, representatives of the American Chemistry Council and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates argued for the status quo, saying they have taken steps to prevent accidental or terrorist-induced releases of dangerous compounds.

If they are forced to stop using such substances as chlorine, they said, there would be job losses and even plant closures. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is sympathetic to their position and has introduced legislation that would extend existing regulations for five years.


The chemical industry has considerable pull in Washington, having spent more than $45 million on lobbying in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The ACC spent the most — $7 million — among individual trade groups and companies. Dow Chemical spent nearly $6 million, and DuPont shelled out $3.75 million.

No comments: