Chemical Disaster Prevention Legislation Introduced in Senate Will Protect Millions and Create Jobs
WASHINGTON, July 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is being issued by Greenpeace:
Today, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced chemical plant security legislation that would eliminate catastrophic risks to millions of Americans, create thousands of new jobs and provide economic stimulus to local governments. The Lautenberg legislation is based on the compromise bill (H.R. 2868) adopted by the House of Representatives last November.
Disaster prevention, a defining policy in this legislation, has taken on new urgency following the BP oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and renewed threats of terrorism. The legislation requires all chemical plants identified as high risk to evaluate safer chemical processes. The very highest risk plants would be conditionally required to use safer chemical processes where possible to prevent poison gas disasters in populated areas. Currently approximately 300 chemical plants together put 110 million Americans at risk in 41 states.
Without any supporting data, industry opponents and their congressional allies have asserted that even a conditional requirement to convert high-risk plants to safer chemical processes would cost jobs or hurt businesses. To address this issue, Greenpeace contracted Management Information Services, Inc. (MISI) to do an independent analysis of the House passed bill. MISI does similar assessments for industry groups.
Contrary to industry claims, the MISI analysis found that: “The gross jobs impact attributable to the legislative initiative is forecast to stay at around 8,000 every year through 2020…In summary, the analysis suggests that H.R. 2868 will have a slight positive impact on the U.S. economy and a small increase in net employment nationwide. In addition, the legislation will place thousands of employees and millions of U.S. residents in a vastly safer environment.” The two sectors of the economy that MISI says will benefit the most are the chemical industry and state and local governments.
“This legislation is a compromise that everyone can support. It will give the industry the flexibility and guidance to make their plants safer, create 8,000 new jobs and provide economic stimulus for local communities,” said John Deans, Greenpeace policy analyst.
The Lautenberg legislation is composed of two bills. One bill covers water facilities and the other chemical facilities. Since 9/11, more than 284 chemical facilities have converted to safer chemical processes, eliminating chemical disaster risks to 38 million Americans. Most facilities converted for less than $1 million, and one third expect to save money. But the current rate of conversion will take decades and does not prioritize eliminating the highest risks.
“This legislation will protect millions of Americans by preventing disasters instead of waiting for disasters to happen,” said Rick Hind, legislative director of Greenpeace.
The Lautenberg legislation will:
- Conditionally require the highest risk plants to use safer chemical processes where feasible and cost-effective, and require the remaining high risk plants to “assess” safer chemical processes;
- Eliminate the current law’s exemption of 2,400 water treatment plants and 500 port facilities;
- Involve plant employees in the development of security plans and provide protections for whistleblowers and limit background check abuses;
- Preserve states’ authority to establish stronger security standards;
- Provide $525 million per year in funding for conversion of chemical plants, drinking water facilities, and wastewater facilities, and;
- Allow citizen suits to enforce government implementation of the law.
Summary and full report:
*** On July 7, 2010 Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told a joint conference of industry and agency personnel that, “we support the idea of industry’s use of safer technology, such as less toxic chemicals, where possible, to enhance security.”
*** The Association of American Railroads has also called for disaster prevention saying, “It’s time for the big chemical companies to do their part to help protect America. They should stop manufacturing dangerous chemicals when safer substitutes are available. And if they won’t do it, Congress should do it for them…”
*** In November 2009, the Clorox Company announced plans to convert all of their U.S. facilities from ultra-hazardous chlorine gas to liquid bleach to “strengthen our operations and add another layer of security,” according to their CEO Don Knauss. Clorox also indicated that these changes “won’t affect the size of the company’s workforce.”
*** In December 2008, Dow announced a partnership with K2 Pure Solutions that will eliminate the chlorine gas risks at their Pittsburgh, CA plant and create 40 permanent jobs and approximately 300 construction jobs.
*** In addition, a blue-green coalition of 90 organizations is urging Congress to enact this legislation. They include: the United Auto Workers, Steelworkers, Teamsters, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Greenpeace.