Washington, DC – Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) today chaired the fourth and final hearing to examine the security of the nation’s chemical industry against terrorist attacks. Today’s hearing featured testimony from the Coast Guard, company security chiefs, and other parties who are responsible for working to prevent and respond to emergencies at chemical sites. Senator Collins expects to introduce legislation in the fall to strengthen security at chemical facilities across the country. Currently, only a fraction of these sites are regulated for security by the federal government.
“The goal of these hearings has been to help this Committee develop comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to address what clearly is one of our nation’s greatest homeland security vulnerabilities,” said Senator Collins. “We have learned that the United States is home to thousands of facilities that manufacture, use, or store chemicals for legitimate purposes that could cause devastation if turned against us as weapons. We have also learned that voluntary measures and a patchwork of state laws, while helpful, are not enough. Federal regulation is clearly necessary to ensure adequate and consistent security measures to protect both our communities and an industry that is vital to the American economy.”
At today’s hearing, company security chiefs described the day-to-day challenges of securing chemical facilities and a local emergency manager gave expert testimony on responding to chemical incidents. A Rear Admiral of the United States Coast Guard also detailed the success of security measures implemented under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, which has been praised for improving security at chemical facilities in our ports and waterways.
During previous hearings on chemical security, key representatives of the chemical industry expressed support for federal legislation to regulate security at chemical facilities, including oversight and enforcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration also testified in support of federal legislation to regulate security at chemical sites. As part of its examination of this issue, the Committee also heard from witnesses representing labor and environmental associations, chemical safety professionals, and homeland security experts.
The Environmental Protection Agency has listed some 15,000 chemical facilities that produce, use or store large quantities of hazardous chemicals. The Department of Homeland Security, using a different methodology, has identified 3,400 facilities that could potentially affect more than 1,000 people if attacked, and nearly 300 chemical facilities where a toxic release could potentially affect 50,000 or more people.