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Boy next to chemical tanker
3.21.03
Science and Health:
Homeland Insecurity
More on This Story:
Overview

According to a report released this week by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, there are an over 100 chemical plants near enough to major metropolitan areas to endanger millions of Americans — should those plants fall victim to terrorist attack.

NOW's report "On the Homefront" reports on the difficult, practical, and political attempts to make U.S. chemical plants safer from terrorist attacks. The story involves Congress, the federal government, U.S. businesses, think-tanks and environmental groups. And homeland insecurity doesn't end with safer chemical plants — America's ports and food supply are just many of the highly valuable parts of American society that critics worry are still vulnerable. Learn more about the issues and entities covered in NOW and NPR's report listed below:


Reports on chemical plant vulnerability

Countering the New Terrorism
This 1998 report by the Rand Corporation was one of the first efforts to analyze what appeared to be a new type of terrorism. Rand, a research and development think tank founded in 1947, has been reporting on terrorism since 1972. The impetus behind the report was the increasingly deadly, and highly organized, nature of terrorist attacks and the potential for the use of weapons of mass destruction and information superstructure attacks. The security of domestic industrial infrastructure was one of the major areas of concern in the report.

U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century
The U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century was organized in the wake of the severe terrorist acts of 1997 and 1998 as a Federal advisory committee chartered by the Secretary of Defense. The commission's aim was "to provide the most comprehensive government-sponsored review of U.S. national security in more than 50 years." Under the co-chairmanship of Gary Hart, former Senator from Colorado and Warren B. Rudman, former Senator from New Hampshire, the group released three reports, all in advance of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The final report, "Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change" released on February 15, 2001, expressed concern about the safety and oversight of U.S. chemical plants.

Council on Foreign Relations
In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations reconvened the group from the U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century again under the co-chairmanship of Gary Hart and Warren B. Rudman. The group released the report America Still Unprepared — America Still in Danger in 2002. The report noted that Hart and Rudman's earlier calls to action had gone virtually unnoticed.


Oversight Agencies

Office for Domestic Preparedness
The Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP) is part of the new Department of Homeland Security. The ODP is the program office within the Department of Justice (DOJ) responsible for enhancing the capacity of state and local jurisdictions to respond to, and mitigate the consequences of, incidents of domestic terrorism. The Department is sponsoring a conference in July 2003 on "lessons learned" from the September 11 attacks. To find your local Homeland Security office and get information on preparedness efforts use our Resource Map.

EPA: The Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office
The EPA's The Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Division (CEPPO) was organized after the deadly chemical gas leak in Bhopal, India in 1984. Its stated mission is "to prevent and prepare for chemical emergencies; respond to environmental crises; inform the public about chemical hazards in their community; and share lessons learned about chemical accidents." CEPPO is the office of the EPA designated to deal with homeland security and domestic terrorism threats to chemical plants. CEPPO's "Counter-Terrorism Fact Sheet" dates from 1998.

Right-to-Know Act
CEPPO functions under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986. The Act calls for emergency planning, emergency release notification, hazardous chemical storage reporting requirements, and toxic chemical release inventory. In accordance with this law, CEPPO offers some community information at its Chemicals in Your Community Web page. However, as noted on NOW's Resource Map, the chemical Vulnerable Zone Indicator system does not appear to be functioning at this time.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
The ATSDR is a branch of the Centers for Disease Control mandated by Congress to monitor the effect on public health of hazardous substances in the environment. ATSDR monitors waste sites, and maintains informative health surveillance and registries — and is a premier site for finding studies on the long-term effects of chemical exposure. The site provides good information on toxic substances common in chemical plants.

United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
Chemsafety.gov, the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board's Web site, monitors chemical accidents domestically, and worldwide, on a daily basis. The site also publishes the official findings of investigations in the aftermath of chemical accidents.


Environmental, Public Interest Groups and Industry Sites

American Chemistry Council (ACC)
The ACC is a group representing the chemical industry in the United States. According to the ACC, chemistry is a $450 billion a year business, and accounts for the greatest number of U.S. exports. The ACC advocates for voluntary chemical plant regulation under their "Responsible Care" program. The ACC was a key lobbier in the recent Congressional negotiation over the Chemical Security Act of 2002. (See below.)

Greenpeace: No Chemical Security in New Homeland Security Department
The environmental group Greenpeace's Toxics Campaign has been a vocal supporter of increased oversight of the chemical industry. The group advocates increased oversight and new security measures for U.S. chemical plants, but also favors changing chemical industry practices to use less toxic substances in production. This article links to many studies of chemical plant security, relevant Congressional testimony and other environmental advocacy groups.

Community Right-to-Know Network
The Working Group on Community Right-to-Know is a DC based coalition of more than 1,500 public interest groups around the country working for more openness in government and industry. Dedicated to increasing the public information movement started with the federal Right-to-Know legislation described above, the network's Web site contains information on how to gather information on potential fires, spills, and explosions involving hazardous chemicals. Some states also have comprehensive Right-to-Know which offer information on chemical hazards. See New Jersey Right-to-Know Program


The Chemical Security Act

Senator Jon S. Corzine: Fact Sheet on Chemical Security Legislation
Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) sponsored last year's bill to toughen safety measures in the chemical industry. This fact sheet lays out Corzine's arguments in brief.

S. 1602: Chemical Security Act of 2001
As documented in NOW's report "On the Homefront," Senator Corzine's Chemical Safety bill underwent significant changes during its trip through the 107th Congress. Read the original, and modified versions here.

Common Cause
This briefing paper by the campaign finance oversight group Common Cause documents contributions made by the chemical industry to lawmakers.


Port Security

Department of Transportation Hazmat Safety Homepage
The Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, which is within the United States Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration, is responsible for coordinating a national safety program for the transportation of hazardous materials by air, rail, highway and water.

Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002
The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 integrates the myriad of federal, state, local and private law enforcement agencies overseeing the security of the international borders at America's seaports. The bill authorizes more security officers, more screening equipment, and the building of important security infrastructure at seaports. The Senate Commerce Committee had unanimously approved a previous version of the Port and Maritime Security Act that focused on crime, cargo theft, and smuggling. Following September 11, the bill was dramatically expanded to address the new threat of terrorism at America's seaports.

The Fragile State of Container Security
Written Testimony before a hearing of the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee by Stephen E. Flynn, Ph.D., Director, Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force on Homeland Security Imperatives.


Food Security

Terrorism, Infrastructure Protection and The U.S. Food and Agricultural Sector
This testimony by Peter Chalk aims to expand the current debate on public infrastructure protection and bio-terrorism by assessing the vulnerabilities of agriculture and the food chain to a deliberate act of agro-terrorism.

NOW's report "On the Homefront" was produced in conjunction with National Public Radio.

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