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Homeland Security

VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-324272 US / Chemical Threat (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=4/27/2005

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=US / CHEMICAL THREAT (L ONLY)

NUMBER=2-324272

BYLINE=JIM MALONE

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

HEADLINE: Experts Say US Chemical Plants Vulnerable to Attack

INTRO: Security experts warned members of Congress that the United States must do more to protect chemical plants from terrorist attack. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

TEXT: The experts come from both the government and the private sector and are concerned about the vulnerability of chemical plants across the country.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine chairs the Senate committee that reviews U.S. homeland security efforts.

/// COLLINS ACT ///

"To us, those facilities are vital parts of our economy that create jobs and improve our lives. To our enemies, they are weapons waiting to be used against an unsuspecting population."

/// END ACT ///

The Environmental Protection Agency says there are 123 chemical plants in 24 states where a release of dangerous chemicals could threaten more than one-million people.

Richard Falkenrath is a security expert with the Brookings Institution in Washington. He contends that relatively little has been done since the 2001 terrorist attacks to safeguard chemical facilities from terrorist attack.

/// FALKENRATH ACT ///

"The chemicals that we are talking about today are in many cases identical to those used on the battlefields of World War One. They are enormously dangerous. They are produced in truly massive quantities, shipped and stored in many cases next to very dense urban populations and present, in my opinion, the single greatest danger of a potential terrorist attack in our country today."

/// END ACT ///

Some members of Congress from both major political parties are now pushing to enact new federal laws that would tighten security at chemical plants, especially those located in large population areas.

The Department of Homeland Security is devising a plan, but some lawmakers say it is not being done with the urgency that is required.

Senator John Corzine, a Democrat from New Jersey, comes from a state where 11 major chemical plants are located.

/// CORZINE ACT ///

"This is an issue where I think lives are at stake. We would not tolerate this kind of site security oversight at our nuclear power plants. The public knows that."

/// END ACT ///

In addition to the security concerns, experts urged the government to do much more to prepare for the aftermath of a potential terrorist attack on a chemical plant.

/// OPT /// Carolyn Merritt chairs the government board that investigates accidents at chemical plants around the country.

/// OPT MERRITT ACT ///

"Many incidents that the Chemical Safety Board has investigated reveal serious gaps in how well companies, emergency responders, government authorities and the public are prepared for a major chemical release. These gaps in preparedness leave Americans vulnerable."

/// END ACT // END OPT ///

Experts and lawmakers generally agreed that some form of federal legislation is needed to require chemical plants to strengthen their security. At the current time, that responsibility is largely left to the companies themselves.

A federally funded report last year found that nearly three-quarters of the chemical plants surveyed had taken some steps to improve security since the 2001 terrorist attacks. But the report also found that less than half of the facilities had done much to improve communications or emergency training in preparation for a possible attack. (SIGNED)

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