(Beyond Pesticides, April 9, 2009) On April 2, 2009, Greenpeace USA, joined by Beyond Pesticides and others, sent a letter (Senate, House) urging Congress to pass comprehensive chemical security reform. Beyond Pesticides believes chemical security is an important step, but only one piece of larger chemical reform, which would ban toxic chemical production when safer products and practices exist.
According to the coalition, U.S. pesticide and other chemical plants remain one of the sectors of America’s infrastructure most vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attacks. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has identified approximately 7,000 high-risk U.S. chemical facilities. However, unless Congress replaces a flawed temporary law with a comprehensive chemical security program, millions of Americans will remain at risk.
The statute Congress passed in 2006 temporarily authorized “interim” regulations that are wholly inadequate to protect communities. Furthermore these rules expire on October 4, 2009 leaving the 111th Congress only six months to enact truly protective legislation. Congress must pass comprehensive legislation before the temporary law expires.
Among the fatal flaws in the “interim” statute:
— It prohibits the DHS from requiring the most ironclad security measures. DHS cannot require any specific “security measure,” including the use of safer and more secure chemical processes that can eliminate catastrophic hazards posed by poison gas, even when cost-effective alternatives are readily available.
— It explicitly exempts thousands of chemical facilities, including approximately 2,650 water treatment facilities, some of which put major cities at risk.
— It fails to involve plant employees in the development of vulnerability assessments and security plans or protect employees from excessive background checks.
In March 2008 the House Homeland Security Committee adopted the “Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008” (H.R. 5577) in a bipartisan vote. H.R. 5577 addresses many of the flaws in the interim law. However, the chemical manufacturers lobby opposed it and favors making the interim law permanent.
Just last summer, a pesticide tank exploded at a Bayer chemical plant in West Virginia, drawing comparisons between the site’s potential risk and the 1984 Bhopal disaster, in which an explosion and leak at the Bayer site’s sister plant killed thousands. Read more. Chemical plant tragedies, as well as the slow poisoning of our environment through everyday pesticide and other toxic chemical use, raises the issue of whether these toxic chemicals should be manufactured at all, when safer practices and products exist.
Take Action: EPA has identified nearly 7,000 high-risk chemical facilities throughout the country that could kill or injure anywhere from 1,000 to more than a million people in the case of an accident or terrorist attack. Congress has the power to prevent this kind of tragedy. Sign Greenpeace’s “Do Not Kill List.” Tell Congress how important your life and loved ones are to you.