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Friday, August 20, 2004

Chemical plants

Perhaps someone in the White House watched Bill Maher's show this week, or else this WSJ reporter - Chemical Plants Still Have Few Terror Controls
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the White House and Congress enacted laws and regulations to tighten security at airports, nuclear-power plants and public water supplies. But three years later, chemical plants still aren't subject to federal security controls.

Now, in a move that worries some environmental groups and Bush administration critics, the Department of Homeland Security has dramatically lowered the number of plants that it considers the most potentially dangerous in an attack, compared with an earlier list compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the EPA, there are 7,728 U.S. chemical plants where an accident -- or act of sabotage -- could endanger 1,000 or more nearby residents. Of those, 123 facilities could threaten more than one million people. But according to Homeland Security's new assessments, the number of plants threatening 1,000 or more people has been lowered to 4,391, while the number potentially affecting more than a million has dropped to two.


The administration's critics say the White House doesn't want to burden the chemical industry, a major contributor to the Bush re-election campaign, with onerous requirements. The White House denies the accusation, pointing out that legislation that it supports to regulate the industry is languishing in the Senate.

But environmental activists and some Democrats say that by reducing the number of plants on the list Homeland Security has, by accident or design, made the threat seem smaller and lessened the urgency for addressing the security shortcomings.


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