October 12, 2003

Bush gives in to chemical companies, leaving the nation vulnerable.

LNS covered this disgraceful story back in August when
Gary Hart (D-Reality) wrote an op-ed on it piece
published by the WASHPs...It is shameless, but what is
even more shamless and disgraceful (and if you think I
am harping on and on, explain why it is not on your
evening news or on the Sunday morning
propapunditgandists' outrage of the week...Yes, even
phoney liberals like Margaret Carlson and Al Hunt
ignore this shocking breach of Homeland Security) Dean
(D-Jeffords), Clark (D-NATO) and to a lesser extent
Kerry (D-Mekong Delta) have shown courage in this race
so far, one of them or all of them should go to these
sites and stand outside them and demand an
explanation. But not only that...they should go a step
farther...They go to these sites, stand outside and
turn on the press corp and demand to know why this
story has not been on the front page and in the lead
of the evening news. Use it as a brilliantly lucid
example of how complicit and protective the "US
mainstream news media" has been in its service for the
Bush cabal...Yes, political leaders and Hollywood
stars are denounced as unpatriotic when they speak out
against the war, but the chemical industry is allowed
to jeopardize the lives of hundreds of thousands of
innnocent citizens as repayment for the generous
campaing contributions...


Open to Attack
Bush gives in to chemical companies, leaving the nation vulnerable.
by Anne-Marie Cusac

Since September 11, 2001, the nation has been on alert
about the vulnerability of chemical facilities. And
while the Bush Administration claims that homeland
security is a priority, time after time, it has opted
to do nothing dramatic to improve the security of U.S.
chemical facilities. All along, it has followed the
wishes of the U.S. chemical industry--at our peril.

The risk to the American people is great. According to
the General Accounting Office, "123 chemical
facilities located throughout the nation have toxic
'worst-case' scenarios where more than a million
people in the surrounding area could be at risk of
exposure to a cloud of toxic gas if a release

Approximately 700 other plants, says the GAO, "could
each potentially threaten at least 100,000 people in
the surrounding area, and about 3,000 facilities could
each potentially threaten at least 10,000 people."

The Bush Administration knows there is a huge security
risk. On February 6, 2002, George Tenet, the director
of the Central Intelligence Agency, testified that Al
Qaeda could be planning to target chemical facilities.
In February 2003, the Bush Administration announced
that terrorists "may attempt to launch conventional
attacks against the U.S. nuclear/chemical industrial
infrastructure to cause contamination, disruption, and
terror. Based on information, nuclear power plants and
industrial chemical plants remain viable targets."
(This article looks at security in the chemical

The Administration refuses to do what is necessary to
protect the American public from terrorist attacks on
chemical plants. Instead, it is listening to what
industry wants.

"We haven't even done the minimal things," says Gary
Hart, the former Democratic Senator from Colorado and
one-time Presidential candidate. "There has been zero
leadership from either the White House or the new
department" of Homeland Security.

Hart has a lot of credibility on this issue. As
co-chair of the United States Commission on National
Security in the Twenty-First Century, he helped author
the commission's prescient report, "New World Coming:
American Security in the 21st Century," published in
September 1999. The report warned that, in the course
of the next quarter century, terrorist acts involving
weapons of mass destruction were likely to increase.
"Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly
in large numbers," it said.

Hart says that private industry won't spend what it
takes to make adequate security changes. "I don't
think many companies are going to disturb their bottom
line," he says, "unless they are ordered to by the
federal government, or if the President goes on
national TV and tells them to do so." Those orders
have not yet arrived.

Bush has given primary responsibility for overseeing
security improvements in the chemical industry to the
EPA. At first, the EPA appeared eager to take on the
task. In fact, then-EPA Administrator Christine Todd
Whitman even prepared a speech announcing a new
security initiative, according to papers Greenpeace
obtained through an EPA leak and a Freedom of
Information Act request.

A June 11, 2002, document labeled,
"Draft--Pre-decisional--Do Not Cite or Quote,"
concerns a "Rollout Strategy for Chemical Facility
Site Security." According to the documents, Whitman
and Tom Ridge, head of Homeland Security, were to
announce the new policy at the White House.

"I am pleased to join Governor Ridge today to announce
a series of new initiatives by the Environmental
Protection Agency to advance security at facilities
that handle hazardous chemicals," Whitman's speech
begins. "Particularly in the post-9/11 era, it should
be clear to everyone that facilities handling the most
dangerous chemicals must take reasonable precautions
to protect themselves and their communities from the
potential consequences of a criminal attack."

EPA was going to get right on it. "Starting in July,
EPA representatives will begin visiting high priority
chemical facilities to discuss their current and
planned security efforts," the speech read. "These
visits will allow EPA to survey security and, if
appropriate, encourage security improvements at these

Despite the detailed preparations, Whitman never gave
the speech, and the new policy was never issued.

What happened?

Industry weighed in.

"We heard from industry," says a former EPA official
who declines to be named. The chemical lobby insisted
that the agency did not have authority to go after
companies that did not adequately safeguard their
plants, the official says.

Also hearing from industry was Bush's Council on
Environmental Quality (CEQ), which has a sympathetic
ear. The CEQ is located across the street from the
White House and is headed by James Connaughton, who
formerly worked as a lobbyist for power companies.

Industry lobbying groups such as the American
Chemistry Council and the American Petroleum Institute
were in repeated contact with the CEQ during the
summer and fall of 2002, according to the documents
Greenpeace obtained.

The American Petroleum Institute vehemently opposed
EPA regulation of plant security under the Clean Air
Act. "EPA's existing authority to regulate 'accidental
releases' from chemical facilities . . . does not
encompass authority to address terrorist attacks,"
reads one document (bold in original) that the
petroleum lobby submitted to the CEQ. The EPA's claim
that it has the "authority to require plant operators
to implement counter-terrorism measures goes far
beyond the plain language of the statute and would
impose new legal obligations without the proper
legislative authority."

Aware of this argument, the EPA considered introducing
legislation that would have explicitly expanded its
authority under the Clean Air Act. Section 112(r)
assigns chemical plants in this country the general
duty of preventing dangerous accidents. The draft
legislation would have broadened this responsibility
to require the chemical industry to take measures to
reduce the potential danger of criminal attacks,
including terrorism.

A draft of the new general duty clause said, "All
chemical facilities handling extremely hazardous
chemicals have a general duty to identify hazards that
may result from releases caused by terrorist or other
criminal activity using appropriate assessment
techniques, to design and maintain a secure facility,
and to minimize the consequences of releases that do
occur." EPA Deputy Administrator Linda Fisher
discussed this draft in a May 2002 presentation
entitled "Proposal for Chemical Security Legislation,"
according to the documents.

Fisher's presentation included a slideshow that
revealed how dire the situation is. One slide, which
explained why the legislation was necessary, asked,
"Is industry safe? No way to answer under current

But the EPA backed off on the legislative route as

While the chemical and petroleum industries were busy
putting the skids on the EPA, they also were working
on Congress.

Senator Jon Corzine, Democrat of New Jersey, had
attempted to attach an amendment to the Senate's
Homeland Security bill that would have granted the EPA
authority to regulate security at plants housing
dangerous chemicals. It also would have required those
facilities, when possible, to decrease the amounts of
dangerous substances they store on site.

A modified version of Corzine's bill, the Chemical
Security Act of 2001, had received unanimous approval
from the Senate's Environment and Public Works
Committee on July 25, 2002.

An alarmed chemical industry sprang into action,
"mounting daily assaults on the Republican members of
the [Environment and Public Works] committee
throughout August," reported John Judis in The New
Republic last January. An August 29, 2002, letter,
signed by thirty members of the chemical and oil
industry lobby and sent to Republican members of the
committee, deplored the new bill, particularly its
proposal to "grant sweeping new authority to EPA to
oversee facility security." The lobbyists objected
strongly to a particular provision that would have
required plants to use "inherently safer
technologies." This would "allow government
micromanagement in mandating substitutions of all
processes and substances," the letter stated, adding
that it could "result in increased security risks."

By September 10, seven out of the nine Republican
members on the committee bowed to the pressure,
issuing a letter against the Corzine bill, claiming it
"severely misses the mark" (emphasis in the original).

During that same summer, members of the American
Chemistry Council (ACC) "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
member companies," according to a Common Cause report
dated January 27, 2003.

Frederick Webber, then head of the American Chemistry
Council, was a prominent donor to President Bush's
2000 campaign, having agreed to raise $100,000 in
funding for it and recruiting "more than twenty-five
chemical industry executives to be Bush fundraisers,"
said Common Cause.

In addition to the industry efforts to lobby the
Senators, the American Petroleum Institute was again
in close contact with the CEQ, repeatedly sending
copies of its "talking points" on the Corzine
amendment to CEQ staff.

A September 6, 2002, fax from Red Cavaney, president
and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, to James
Connaughton, chairman of the CEQ, includes a
handwritten message, "Urgent--Please deliver. Hard
copy to follow." The letter, which begins "Dear Jim,"
says that if the EPA gains authority to oversee the
anti-terrorism measures of industry, "a year's worth
of close cooperation and partnership between industry
and a wide variety of qualified federal security
experts may well be marginalized."

When Corzine attempted to introduce his legislation as
an amendment to the Homeland Security bill, the
Republican Senators blocked a vote, effectively
killing the bill. On November 19, the Homeland
Security bill passed the Senate. The bill did not
include Corzine's amendment.

Nor did the bill include any other binding provisions
for security at chemical plants.

The industry is proud of the role it played in nixing
the plans for heightened security. .

"The reason we're organized is to tell the government
what would work well to take care of certain
problems," says Bill Hickman, spokesman for the
American Petroleum Institute, in response to questions
about whether the organization pressured the
government on security issues. "We always are talking
to the government. We always are telling them what
will work best. We're familiar with these issues and
think we're pretty good advisers to the government."

When I approached the American Chemistry Council for
comment, Kate McGloon, a spokeswoman for the
organization, asked, "Is there anyone you need to talk
to?" She instantly offers to put me in touch with
people inside the Department of Homeland Security and
the EPA.

Marty Durbin, director of federal relations and team
leader for security at the American Chemistry Council,
says his organization had some problems with Corzine's
bill because it would have given primary jurisdiction
over chemical plant security "to EPA rather than to
the Department of Homeland Security." EPA officials,
he says, "are not the right folks to be doing

Although Corzine reintroduced his bill this year, a
bill by Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma,
is also under consideration. The Inhofe bill, which
the American Chemistry Council says is more to its
liking, would remove chemical plant security oversight
from the EPA and place it in the hands of the
Department of Homeland Security. Gary Hart has
criticized the Inhofe bill for including "virtually no
oversight or enforcement of safety requirements."

Corzine is incredulous at the lack of government
oversight and the risk that entails. "Our chemical
facilities represent a clear vulnerability in our war
against terrorism," he says. "Yet, as common-sense
security measures continue to stall in Congress, this
appears to be a classic instance of the special
interests trumping the public interest. More than two
years after the attacks on the World Trade Center and
the Pentagon, we have not taken the first step in
setting national security standards for our chemical
infrastructure." Corzine is blunt about who is at
fault: "The Administration is putting the interests of
industry ahead of the safety of the American people."

Chemical companies depend on the rails to transport
hazardous chemicals, and the Department of
Transportation has also buckled under industry

If chemical security is the weak link in homeland
security, says Rick Hind, legislative director for the
Greenpeace Toxics Campaign, "railroad shipping is the
weak link within that. In order to make a dangerous
chemical plant dangerous, you have to ship dangerous
chemicals. And that goes right through the backyard of

Like the EPA, the Department of Transportation
initially moved to tighten things up. On May 2, 2002,
it issued notice that it was preparing a new rule
governing security requirements for those who sell or
transport hazardous materials. One requirement said,
"Routes should minimize product exposures to populated
areas and avoid tunnels and bridges, where possible."

The DOT's announcement resulted in almost 300
responses, nearly all of them from affected
industries, particularly chemical, petroleum, and
fertilizer companies, including the Chlorine
Institute, Formosa Plastics, Monsanto, Phillips
Petroleum, Dupont, Dow Chemical, BASF, the American
Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council,
the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council, the Fertilizer
Institute, and the Institute of Makers of Explosives.

"About ten to twenty" of the comments on the
rulemaking asked that the language about routes "be
removed because it would have locked them in or
restricted what they could do in setting up their
individual security plans," says Joe Delcambre, a
public affairs representative in the Research and
Special Programs Administration at the Department of
Transportation. "To give the industry more latitude in
how they were going to set up their security plans,"
he says, "we backed off on the wording."

The department's final rule, issued in March of this
year, completely omits the language about preferable

"There's nothing really in there that says anything
about restricting transport at any time," says Hind.
He expected the rule at least to require constraints
on dangerous chemicals in heavily populated areas
during orange alerts. "But they didn't even do that,"
he says.

In September, the Sierra Club photographed a rail tank
car carrying chlorine near the U.S. Capitol.
Greenpeace took notice. "We are formally requesting
immediate action by the Secret Service to address a
near and present danger to the President, Vice
President, Speaker of the House, and all other
national leaders living and working in Washington,
D.C.," Hind wrote to the Secret Service. By the EPA's
own worst-case estimates, a leak from one ninety-ton
rail car of chlorine could kill or injure "people in
the Congress, the White House, and any of 2.4 million
local residents within fourteen miles," Hind wrote.

Greenpeace isn't the only one raising alarms. On June
20, FBI Special Agent Troy Morgan, a specialist on
weapons of mass destruction, addressed a chemical
security summit in Philadelphia. "You've heard about
sarin and other chemical weapons in the news," he
said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "But
it's far easier to attack a rail car full of toxic
industrial chemicals than it is to compromise the
security of a military base and obtain these

Jerry Poje is a member of the U.S. Chemical Safety and
Hazard Investigation Board. This government
organization was formed in the wake of the December 2,
1984, Union Carbide disaster that killed thousands of
people in Bhopal, India. He, too, is worried about
chlorine. "It's a chemical whose use is very common in
the country," says Poje. "There are many, many, many
rail cars" filled with it.

Industry says it can adequately monitor itself. The
American Chemistry Council, for one, has adopted a
"Security Code of Management Practices." Member
companies are supposed to conduct vulnerability
assessments using methodologies designed by approved
organizations, implement a security plan, and submit
their security measures to outside verification.

However, the organization is not specific in its
security requirements. For instance, it doesn't
require background checks on guards. It doesn't
require companies to minimize the dangerous chemicals
they store on site. It doesn't require companies to
fix holes in their fences. "You can't really have a
cookie-cutter approach" to different plants, says
Durbin. He also says that each chemical facility gets
to choose the person who verifies that it has actually
carried out a security plan.

The GAO studied industry's voluntary efforts. Its
March 2003 report is entitled "Voluntary Initiatives
Are Under Way at Chemical Facilities but the Extent of
Security Preparedness Is Unknown." The title pretty
much sums up the problem with security in the chemical
industry. We don't know what's going on.

"To date, no one has comprehensively assessed the
security of chemical facilities. No federal laws
explicitly require that chemical facilities assess
vulnerabilities or take security actions to safeguard
their facilities against terrorist attack," says the
report. "No agency monitors or documents the extent to
which chemical facilities have implemented security
measures. Consequently, federal, state, and local
entities lack comprehensive information on the
vulnerabilities facing the industry."

The GAO report reveals that the EPA is worried about
the voluntary initiatives, which "raise an issue of
accountability, since the extent that industry group
members are implementing voluntary initiatives is

In the end, voluntary security initiatives collide
with the need to save money. "According to industry
officials, chemical companies face a challenge in
achieving cost-effective security solutions, noting
that companies must weigh the cost of implementing
countermeasures against the perceived reduction in
risk," the GAO report says.

The GAO's observation that money is getting in the way
of security at our chemical plants is borne out by a
research report by the Conference Board, a business
organization. Entitled "Corporate Security Management:
Organization and Spending Since 9/11," the research
found that "the median increase [from October 2002 to
February 2003] in total security spending is only 4

The reason for the overall lack of spending on
security, concluded the Conference Board, was
economics. "The perceived need to upgrade corporate
security has clashed with the perceived need to
control expenses until the economy recovers," it

The American Chemistry Council says it does not yet
have figures on what its member companies are spending
on security.

Gary Hart has not stopped issuing warnings. In 2002,
he co-chaired another report, this one sponsored by
the Council on Foreign Relations. Entitled "America
Still Unprepared--America Still in Danger," the report
cautioned, "A year after September 11, 2001, America
remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond
to a catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil. In
all likelihood, the next attack will result in even
greater casualties and widespread disruption to
American lives and the economy."

On August 11, Hart published an op-ed in The
Washington Post. "The government has failed to plug a
gaping hole in homeland security: our vulnerable
chemical plants," he wrote. Those plants "are among
the potentially most dangerous components of our
critical infrastructure. Securing them requires urgent

Hart blames the Administration's inaction on "coziness
with the private sector, their campaign contributions,
their political alliances." This Administration, he
tells The Progressive, has a tendency to "put those
political alliances ahead of national security."

Saying he is "very frustrated" at the Bush
Administration's negligence, Hart warns: "We will be
attacked again."

Anne-Marie Cusac is Investigative Reporter for The

Posted by richard at October 12, 2003 04:15 PM