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The Kerry-Edwards Plan To Secure Chemical Plants Against Terrorist Attack

John Kerry for President

Chemical plants are a major target for terrorist attack, and today their security is not adequate. Yet the Bush administration has backed away from strong measures after intense lobbying from contributors in the chemical industry. As president, John Kerry will put Americans' security first with strong measures to improve security at chemical plants.

Chemical Plants Are A Major Target For Terrorist Attack

A Chemical Plant Attack Could Endanger More Than a Million Americans. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are more than 100 chemical plants where a terrorist attack could endanger more than 1 million people. In the Philadelphia region, there are seven such plants - the highest concentration of these facilities on the East Coast. The U.S. Army Surgeon General has concluded that the threat to the public from an attack on a chemical plant is second only to the threat from a biological attack. [Washington Post , 6/12/02 ; Philadelphia Inquirer , 12/1/03 ; Washington Post , 3/12/02]

The National Infrastructure Protection Center Warned of Al-Qaeda Threat to Chemical Plants. In February 2003, the National Infrastructure Protection Center warned that Al-Qaeda "may attempt to launch conventional attacks against the U.S. nuclear/chemical-industrial infrastructure to cause contamination, disruption, and terror." [NIPC, 2/12/03]

Security At Chemical Plants Must Be Improved

60 Minutes Found Chemical Plant Security Lax. In November, 60 Minutes completed an investigation of security at chemical plants in urban areas. The investigators "found gates unlocked or wide open, dilapidated fences, and unprotected tanks filled with deadly chemicals that are used to manufacture everything from plastics to fertilizer." Regarding one plant, 60 Minutes noted, "There was an open gate right in front of the most dangerous chemicals at the plant. We made it in, with plenty of time to find what they were looking for." [60 Minutes , 11/14/03]

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Entered 60 Chemical Plants in Four Cities. While conducting an investigation into chemical plant security, a reporter found easy access to plants around the country. "The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review found in recent investigations that a reporter could easily enter more than 60 plants storing catastrophic amounts of chemicals in Baltimore, Chicago, Houston and western Pennsylvania." [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review , 6/11/02]

Chemical Materials "Are Far From Adequately Secured." A former security chief for Georgia-Pacific has stated, "Across the country there are huge storage tanks with highly dangerous materials that are far from adequately secured." He commented, "security at a 7-Eleven after midnight is better than that at a plant with a 90-ton vessel of chlorine." [AP , 11/16/03 ; Washington Post , 04/08/03]

GAO Notes Risk of Chemical Theft for Weapon. The General Accounting Office has also noted concern over the theft of chemicals from a facility, "which could be used to create a weapon…" [GAO, 3/03]

Security at Chemical Plants "Ranged from Fair to Very Poor." A 1999 report by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that security at chemical plants "ranged from fair to very poor." [Chemical Market Reporter , 10/29/01]

John Kerry Will Enforce Strong Chemical Plant Security

America Needs Strong, Mandatory Protections for Chemical Security. Senator Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, co-chairs of a blue-ribbon homeland security commission, have both recognized the need for mandatory, enforceable standards for chemical plan security. [Washington Post , 8/11/03 ; 60 Minutes , 11/14/03]

As president, John Kerry will:

  • Identify high-priority chemical plants where a terrorist attack could cause massive loss of life;

  • Require adequate physical security around these plants, such as adequate security force, adequate fencing, and adequate surveillance;

  • Require the use of less dangerous chemicals and technologies whenever that is practicable; and,

  • Implement these requirements on a basis that allows companies to assess their vulnerabilities on an individualized basis, to implement their own plans to meet those vulnerabilities in light of local circumstances, and requires government enforcement and action only when industry fails to move first.

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