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9/11 Commissioner’s First Report on Homeland Security

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:10 pm    Post subject: 9/11 Commissioner’s First Report on Homeland Security Reply with quote

SEPTEMBER 14, 2005
12:28 PM
CONTACT: Public Interest Research Group
Meghan Purvis, 202-546-9707

9/11 Commissioner’s First Report on Homeland Security Recommendations: Progress Lacking on Chemical Infrastructure Security

WASHINGTON - September 14 - Today the 9/11 Commissioners released the first report on their recommendations on homeland security and emergency preparedness. In the area of national critical infrastructure risks and vulnerabilities assessments, the Commission awarded a grade of “unsatisfactory.” In the area of private sector preparedness, the Commission felt there has been “minimal progress.” One critical piece that is missing from the federal government’s actions is security at our America’s chemical plants.
“Just yesterday the President had to apologize for failures in responding to our latest national emergency,” said Meghan Purvis, environmental health advocate for U.S. PIRG. “We need to make sure that no future President has to apologize for lack of action in response to an American Bhopal.”

This summer, Senators Collins (ME) and Lieberman (CT) held a series of hearings to address the vulnerability of our nations’ chemical infrastructure to a terrorist attack. At these hearings, the Department of Homeland Security stated that voluntary industry efforts were insufficient, and urged federal action. Senators Collins and Lieberman are currently drafting legislation to deal with this issue.

The original 9/11 Commission Report

The original 9/11 Commission report included a series of recommendations that imply major changes in US homeland security policy. Although no one recommendation specifically names the chemical industry as a target of needed reform, the Commission recommends that the Department of Homeland Security regulate the most vulnerable sections of the private sector. These are the areas of the report that dealt with chemical plant security:

“Private-sector preparedness is not a luxury; it is a cost of doing business in the post-9/11 world. It is ignored at a potential cost in lives, money, and national security.”[i] The 9/11 Commission Report specifically points to the vulnerability of the private sector, which controls 85% of the critical infrastructure, including chemical plants.

“Witness after witness told [the 9/11 Commission] that despite 9/11, the private sector remains largely unprepared for a terrorist attack.” The chemical industry is no different from what the Commission found. Carl Prine, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, investigated numerous chemical facilities in 2002 and again in 2003. Despite wide publicity about the industry’s security failures in 2002, the second investigations found lax security at facilities even at plants that had previously spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on security measures.[ii]

“Recommendation: We endorse the American National Standards Institute’s recommended standard for private preparedness.” The 9/11 Commission endorses a standard developed by ANSI, called a National Preparedness Standard. This standard “establishes a common set of criteria for disaster management, emergency management, and business continuity programs…” Most notably, this standard includes the following components:

Hazard identification, risk assessment, and impact analysis.
Hazard mitigation. A strategy of hazard mitigation should consider a variety of factors, including “removal or elimination of the hazard, reduction or limitation of the amount or size of the hazard, and modification of the basic characteristics of the hazard.” In the context of chemical security, hazard mitigation clearly implies the consideration and implementation of safer chemicals and practices, also known as inherently safer technology.
Planning. The plans recommended by ANSI include a mitigation plan that “shall establish interim and long-term actions to eliminate hazards…” This requirement implies that chemical facilities should plan not only for short-term changes, but also look for major overhauls that will mitigate threats in the future.

Include real chemical security in 9/11 reform efforts.
Consistent standards for the private sector must be included in any effort to codify the 9/11 Commission Report recommendations. Real chemical security reform includes:

Reducing hazards by using safer chemicals and processes wherever possible. The best way to prevent terror attacks on chemical plants is to reduce the attractiveness of the facilities as targets – or remove them as targets altogether – by reducing the use of hazardous chemicals or switching to safer chemicals and processes. Chemical security legislation must include a common-sense provision that requires companies to review safer options and make changes where they are able in order to protect communities.

Consistent standards for all facilities. Consistent standards for the private sector were clearly called for by the 9/11 Commission Recommendations. Real chemical security legislation applies consistent standards, and does not allow members of an industry lobbying organization to be grandfathered into a federal program regardless of actual changes made at any plant. The Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) regulates a set of chemical facilities located at our nations’ ports. MTSA allows facilities to choose one of two options for submitting security plans, and does not apply consistent standards across all regulated facilities. The Government Accountability Office reported flaws in this program; in one case, a facility joined an industry organization solely to avoid submitting an individual security plan after they received a late notice from the Coast Guard. Clearly, MTSA is not a model for chemical security legislation.

Government review of security plans. Security plans, called for by ANSI’s National Preparedness Standard, must be reviewed by the government in order for the American public to be assured that the chemical industry is actually moving forward to protect Americans from the possibility of a terrorist attack. One can easily imagine a scenario where plans are stored in the basement of a government agency for years, and not even opened until a major catastrophe occurs. The plans must be reviewed, and the public notified that the chemical plant has taken appropriate security measures.
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