Washington, DC – Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) today held a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to examine the appropriate role of the federal government in efforts to better protect the nation’s chemical facilities from terrorist attacks. The Senators today sought the input of the chemical industry as well as other experts about the need for federal regulation to secure chemical facilities. Today’s hearing was the third in the Committee’s series of hearings on the issue of chemical security. Senator Collins is the Chairman and Senator Lieberman is the Ranking Member of the Committee.
“It is an unfortunate fact of life that many things in this world with the greatest capacity for good, also have the greatest capacity to cause harm. Chemicals fall into that category,” said Senator Collins. “Given that the chemical industry presents both tremendous benefits as well as immense risks, it is critical that any legislation strike a carefully thought-out balance. Terrorists seek to use our infrastructure and assets to cause maximum disruption to our society and harm to our economy. In our search for a solution to the threats we face, we must be careful not to accomplish the terrorists’ objectives for them.”
“This hearing comes less than one week after terrorists in London demonstrated yet again, their ability to attack and kill innocent civilians, to find and exploit weaknesses in our defenses. And even though the most recent incident was on attack on London’s mass transit system, it was yet another warning that we need to identify and close vulnerabilities in our own country,” said Senator Lieberman. “By any measure, the chemical industry is today one of the sectors in America most vulnerable to terrorist attacks.”
At today’s hearing, key representatives of the chemical industry for the first time, expressed united support for federal legislation to regulate security at chemical facilities, including oversight and enforcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). At the Committee’s last hearing, the Administration also for the first time testified publicly that it supports federal legislation to regulate security at chemical sites. Only a fraction of the nation’s chemical facilities are regulated for security by the federal government.
“Many companies have recognized the need for stronger security and have already taken steps to improve security at their chemical facilities. We applaud these efforts, however, are concerned that these voluntary measures may not go far enough,” said the Senators in a joint statement. “In addition, as DHS has testified at our earlier hearing, not all companies abide by such codes of conduct and a patchwork of state laws is insufficient to reduce the vulnerability of our nation’s chemical facilities to attack. It is time for us to work together with the Administration, the industry, and other interested parties to draft a bipartisan bill.”
Senators Collins and Lieberman are planning to introduce bipartisan legislation to address this issue in September.
The Environmental Protection Agency has cataloged some 15,000 facilities in the United States that manufacture, use or store hazardous chemicals for productive, legitimate purposes in amounts that could cause extensive harm if turned against us as weapons. DHS, using a different methodology, has identified 3,400 facilities that could affect more than 1,000 people if attacked.