The so-called "Chemical Security Act" recently introduced
by Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) is laboring under a monstrous misnomer.
By essentially placing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
in charge of security requirement at the nation's private and
public chemical facilities, the bill would be better named "Terrorist's
Guide to Vulnerable U.S. Chemical Plants Act." The EPA's
record of keeping national security is abysmal and Corzine should
Earlier this summer, the radical
environmental group Greenpeace posted color maps on the Internet
showing chemical plants near large U.S. cities. The group claimed
terrorist attacks on them would shroud the surrounding area in
a deadly mist of toxic ingredients.
One of the plants most prominently
publicized was a Kuehne Chemical bleach factory in South Kearney,
N.J., a few miles from Manhattan and in Corzine's home state.
Greenpeace said a terrorist
attack on the Kuehne facility could unleash a cloud of chlorine
and sulfur that might cover a radius of 25 miles and jeopardize
the lives of health of some 12 million people.
The remaining leaders of Al
Qaeda, presumably as at home on the Internet as they are in a
homemade bomb factory, could well have taken notes and pulled
down Greenpeace's website maps. Nothing quite like having a peace-loving
environmental group, however unintentionally, chart your next
terrorist act for you, is there?
One possible reason the New
Jersey facility hasn't been attacked is that it beefed up security
after its employees watched the World Trade Center's Twin Towers
Peter Kuehne, the company's
chief operating officer, said its plants have stringent safety
and security standards in place, and the only release of toxic
chemicals from the facilities would come from precisely the airborne-type
of assault Greenpeace's maps could help.
Ironically, the Greenpeace map
collection was obtained from the EPA's own web site. Under the
Clean Air Act of 1990, all companies that stored hazardous chemicals
were required to submit to the EPA a detailed report on what the
"worst-case scenario" might be in the event of a terrorist
attack or an accidental spill.
A prudent agency would have
scrutinized the reports and recommended precautionary steps to
the companies as warranted. But the EPA under the Clinton Administration
apparently cared more about scoring points with environmental
activists than protecting Americans.
Carol Browner, the EPA chief
at the time, decided to post the material on the Internet in the
waning days of the Clinton Administration, despite the warning
given by the first World Trade Center bombing and subsequent lethal
terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies, military installations and
At the time, Browner said she
ignored such warning signals because she believed making the data
available on the Internet would force companies to seek to use
less toxic materials in their products.
Although the FBI managed to
persuade a reluctant EPA bureaucracy to remove the toxic chemical
disclosures, the data and maps were downloaded by Greenpeace and
posted on its website.
While Browner is no longer in
office, Corzine appears ready to carry on her jihad against chemical
companies. He is pushing an amendment to the Homeland Security
Act that significantly expands the EPA's role in overseeing sites
containing hazardous materials.
Under the "inherently safer
technologies" clause, new authority would be granted to the
EPA to micro-manage industrial processes and substances.
Corzine apparently has embraced
the environmental movement's cardinal doctrine that all so-called
"toxic" chemicals are inherently bad and should be phased
out as quickly as possible.
Yet, when properly controlled,
"toxic" chemicals are necessary and safe part of any
modern industrial society. Chlorine, which Greenpeace and its
allies targeted for extinction more than a decade ago, is used
with no ill effects to purify our drinking water, our swimming
pools and our sewage disposal plants.
When it comes to homeland security,
EPA officials are by neither inclination nor training on par with
our national security team. Compared to security at the Department
of Defense, the reams of sensitive corporate information that
Corzine's Chemical Security Act would ship into the EPA would
leave the agency through leaks and freedom of information requests
faster than the turn of a revolving door.
The Senate should recognize
the Corzine proposal for what it is - an effort better suited
at currying favor with environmentalists than at protecting chemical
plants, public safety or homeland security. In time of war, the
information Corzine proposes to hand to the EPA for possible further
dissemination belongs under lock-and-key in the classified section
at the Pentagon and not subject to political hijackings.
Amy Ridenour is President of
The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington,
D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.