Excerpt from Chemical Reaction: Despite Terrorism Threat, Chemical Industry Succeeds in Blocking Federal Security Regulations
The chemical industry has been able to evade federal regulation despite long-standing
evidence that chemical plants are a prime target for terrorists and pose a significant security risk:
- In a 1999 report, well before the September 11 attacks in 2001, the federal Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS), warned that “security at chemical plants ranged from fair to
very poor.” The report observed that industrial chemicals “have been used by terrorists
as improvised explosives, incendiaries and poisons in several recent incidents. … [T]hey
have rapid, highly visible impacts on health, they are accessible; and they can be
dispersed by smoke, gas clouds, or food and medicine distribution networks. Note that this report was taken offline after 911 even though it had NO facility specific information. Click here for an archived copy that we have made available for research and educational purposes.
- Following the September 11 attacks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
reported that at least 123 chemical plants across the country each contained enough toxic
chemicals to kill or injure one million persons if a facility were attacked by terrorists.
Another 750 plants have enough chemicals to kill or injure at least 100,000 people in an
- In a separate assessment issued in October 2001, Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. James
B. Peake estimated that a terrorist attack launched on a chemical plant located in a
densely populated area could cause as many as 2.4 million fatalities or injuries. And
plants are located near large population centers. One of the most vulnerable areas,
according to a chemical trade publication, is a stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike near
Newark Liberty International Airport. An attack there, while endangering residents' lives
and health, could also force the shutdown of the turnpike, Amtrak's Northeast Corridor
and the airport.
The first legislative effort to secure the nation’s chemical facilities and stockpiles from
terrorist attack began just six weeks after the September 11 attacks. On October 31, 2001,
Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) introduced the Chemical Security Act of 2001. The bill’s aim was
to make the approximately 15,000 sites across the country where hazardous chemicals are
produced or stored more secure from a terrorist attack. The bill would have:
- Given the EPA one year to issue regulations that designated “high-priority”
chemicals “based on the severity of the threat posed by an accidental release or
criminal release from the chemical sources;”
- Required chemical companies to determine the vulnerability of their facilities to a
terrorist attack, identify hazards that could be caused by a chemical release, and
develop a prevention and response plan that incorporated the results of those
assessments. Those businesses that failed to meet the bill’s mandates could have
been fined up to $25,000 per day for each violation,
- And required chemical manufacturers, utilities, water treatment plant operators, and
the owners of any facilities where hazardous chemicals were produced or stored -- not
only to increase security but also to replace hazardous chemicals with chemicals that
would cause less damage if the target of a terrorist attack. In certain cases, chemical
safety would have required, in the words of the legislation, “changing production
methods and processes and employing inherently safer technologies in the
manufacture, transport and use of chemicals.”
This bill was blocked by the chemical industry and never passed.
Click here to download a copy of Chemical Reaction: Despite Terrorism Threat, Chemical Industry Succeeds in Blocking Federal Security Regulations
For Immediate Release
Jan. 27, 2003
Contact: Mary Boyle
Despite terrorism threat, chemical industry succeeds
in blocking federal security regulations
Despite serious concerns that U.S. chemical plants
could be targets for terrorists, the chemical industry
has successfully blocked legislation that would
mandate more stringent security rules for chemical
manufacturers and others. Helping the industry in its
fight against this legislation was its long history of
political giving and lobbying – more than $80 million
spent since 1995, according to a new report by the
Common Cause Education Fund.
“Big campaign contributions seemed to have trumped the
compelling need for public safety,” said Don Simon,
acting president of Common Cause. “It’s incredible
that security for plants that store and produce deadly
chemicals remains solely in the hands of the chemical
industry, without strong and comprehensive federal
Following the September 11 attacks, the Environmental
Protection Agency warned that 123 chemical plants
across the country each contained enough toxic
chemicals to kill or injure 1 million people, if the
facility were attacked by terrorists, and that another
750 facilities could each threaten more than 100,000
Sen. John Corzine (D-N.J) introduced legislation aimed
at making more secure chemical sites nationwide. A
Senate committee unanimously approved his bill before
the main trade group of the chemical industry, the
American Chemistry Council (ACC), swung into action to
block it. Fearing that the Corzine legislation could
mean costly changes for the industry, the ACC
successfully lobbied GOP Senate leaders to keep the
bill from a vote on the floor.
To this day, neither Congress, nor the White House,
nor any federal agency has been successful in closing
this huge hole in homeland security.
The Common Cause Educational Fund has taken a close
look at the path of the Corzine bill, and tracked the
political contributions made by the ACC and its
members, including chemical giants and major oil
companies. Common Cause has found:
- During the summer of 2002, when the industry was
actively fighting the Corzine bill, ACC members gave
more than $1 million in political contributions, most
of it to Republicans.
- Eight senators who were critical of the Corzine bill
have received more than $850,000 from the ACC and its
- Fred Webber, who headed the ACC until recently, was
one of President Bush’s “pioneers” who raised at least
$100,000 for Bush’s presidential run in 2000.
Click here to download a copy of Chemical Reaction: Despite Terrorism Threat, Chemical Industry Succeeds in Blocking Federal Security Regulations. (123K PDF format)
Worst Case Scenarios: Terrorism & Industrial Chemicals
Worst case scenario and risk management plan background
The Ruse of Terrorism and our Right-To-Know, Part I
Environmental Patriot Act? Terrorism, Patriotism, and Environmental Law.
Five Past Midnight in Bhopal by Dominique Lapierre, Javier Moro - Recounts the 1984 Union Carbide chemical disaster.
When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution by Devra Lee Davis.
Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution by Gerald E. Markowitz, David Rosner. Reviews.
Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos - Why It Is Still Legal and Still Killing Us by Michael Bowker.
Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future by Sheldon Rampton, John Stauber.
Toxic Deception: How the Chemical Industry Manipulates Science, Bends the Law and Endangers Your Health by Dan Fagin and Marianne Lavelle.
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