Senator Barbara Boxer
Opening Statement on Chemical Security Act
Superfund, Toxics, Risk, and
Waste Management Subcommittee
November 14, 2001
Today, the Superfund, Toxics, Risk Subcommittee will hear about the threat posed by toxic chemicals and the need to assure the security of those chemicals. Specifically, we will hear testimony on the Chemical Security Act, introduced by Senator Corzine and co-sponsored by myself, Senator Jeffords and Senator Clinton.
We have had to reorder our priorities since a number of issues have taken on a new urgency since September 11. The security of toxic chemicals throughout the United States is very high on the list.
Whether there is a serious threat posed by toxic chemicals in communities throughout the country is not in question. In fact, one of our witnesses today, Frederick Weber, President of the American Chemistry Council, representing 180 major companies, including DOW and Dupont, said it well in an article on toxic chemical security in the Washington Post just this week.
He said, ANo one needed to convince us that we could beBand indeed would beB a target at some future date.@ AIf they=re looking for a big bang, obviously you don=t have to go far in your imagination to think about what the possibilities are.@
Others have taken note of the terrible threat and taken rapid steps to address it. Since September 11, the District of Columbia=s Blue Plains Waste Water Treatment Plant, quietly at night and under guard, removed 900 tons of liquid chlorine and sulfur dioxide. Practically overnight, they accelerated a program to use fewer toxic chemicals like bleach instead of chlorine gas for wastewater treatment.
Chlorine and sulfur dioxide are so volatile that a rupture of just one 90 ton tanker could release a lethal cloud that could spread over a ten mile radius, killing thousands in just a few minutes.
My state of California is near the top of the list of states with facilities with extremely hazardous chemicals on site. In fact, California has more than 150 facilities with over 100,000 pounds of extremely hazardous substances.
The threat is real, and it requires immediate attention.
Senator Corzine has introduced S. 1602, Athe Chemical Security Act.@ This is just the kind of thing we need to doBwe need to get ahead of the problem and not just react.
The Chemical Security Act provides the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice with the authority to intervene and issue an order when there is a serious threat posed by problems with chemical security.
It also requires that those agencies develop regulations that define priority sites and assure that basic security precautions are taken, which can include limiting the chemicals stored on site.
Let me just say that I understand the value of chemicals in our society. We are not here today to question whether we need chemicals. We do, maybe not quite so much of them, but we do need them.
What we need to do is protect those chemicals, especially the very hazardous ones, from terrorist threats. Let=s be careful not to mix up these issues.
I also want to note the absence of EPA and DOJ. They were invited, but declined to come. I am disappointed that they have chosen not to comment on this issue or this legislation. We need to address this head on and work out our differences quickly. I certainly hope they quickly join us in this process.
We do not have the luxury of time. We need to get ahead of these threats. We need to act. Industry frequently resists additional regulation, but I hope we can keep our eye on the ball. All of us have a responsibility to make sure we do all we can to keep our country safe. Let=s rise to the challenge.