SENATOR FRANK R. LAUTENBERG, CHAIRMAN
Senate Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality of the Committee on Environment and Public Works
Field Hearing on Chemical Security
Monday, March 19, 2007
I want to welcome our witnesses and guests to this field hearing of the Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
This field hearing is a unique opportunity to bring an official U.S. Senate Field Hearing to New Jersey, and I am glad we have the chance to do so.
I will begin with a statement and then I will invite the first set of panelists – my Congressional colleagues – to testify.
On September 11, 2001, our country was attacked. Terrorists used airplanes as weapons and killed more than 3,000 people, including 700 residents of New Jersey.
Later, we learned, as a result of the work of the 9/11 Commission and others, that many warnings were ignored that might have actually helped prevent the 9/11 tragedy.
Yet now we are being warned of another deadly catastrophe waiting to happen. That threat is the possibility of a terrorist attack on a facility storing large quantities of deadly chemicals.
Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have identified the nation’s chemical facilities as an enticing target for terrorists.
In December 2001, it was reported that chemical trade publications had been found in a hideout used by Osama bin Laden.
And just this month, the U.S. military reported finding a bomb-making facility in Baghdad, used to develop chlorine bombs. Three such chlorine bombs were detonated in Iraq in January and February.
There is reason for us to be especially vigilant here in New Jersey and the surrounding region. We know that the two mile stretch between Port Newark and the Newark Liberty International Airport is known as “the most dangerous two miles in America for terrorism,” according to the FBI.
There are 15 thousand chemical facilities across the country. An attack on just one of them could break down the critical infrastructure of a town or city, damage local, state and regional economies—and injure or kill tens of thousands of people.
Given these facts, both the State of New Jersey and the Bush Administration should be doing everything in their power to secure our chemical facilities and protect the public.
New Jersey is doing its part.
Since 2003, our state has adopted a series of measures to protect New Jersey communities.
One of the most critical steps the state is taking is the requirement that the highest risk chemical facilities in New Jersey consider using “Inherently Safer Technologies.”
What this means is that companies should look to replace the most dangerous chemicals with safer ones to reduce the threat and consequences of a terrorist attack.
On Friday, Governor Corzine proposed strengthening New Jersey’s chemical security laws and expanding the number of facilities that must consider adopting Inherently Safer Technologies.
But the Governor is not alone in working to protect New Jersey’s nearly nine million residents.
The chemical industry has worked with the state to develop a set of “Best Practices Standards” that are mandatory at 150 facilities.
And labor leaders, including the AFL-CIO and the Steelworkers Union, worked with industry to improve worker training on chemical security procedures.
These combined efforts, complementing a strong state law, create an environment that best protects the people of New Jersey.
But it is the federal government – and particularly the Bush Administration – that is failing us.
The Bush Administration has proposed a federal regulation that would wipe out New Jersey’s chemical security protections.
In fact, the Administration knew this move was so reckless, they released their proposal on the Friday afternoon just before the Christmas break.
So, while most Americans were enjoying the holidays, the Administration was working to strike down New Jersey’s chemical security law and prevent the state from taking steps necessary to protect our residents.
So how did the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defend this proposal to preempt our state’s law? Their answer, in summary, was that New Jersey could respond to disasters, yet do nothing to prevent them.
That is inexcusable and I won’t stand for it.
Chemical plant security has always been important to me, even before 9/11. In fact, I introduced the first chemical security bill in Congress in 1999.
I called this hearing today to shed light on how our state has increased its level of chemical security and how damaging this Federal Department of Homeland Security proposal would be.
And let me state loud and clear – I will do everything in my power to reverse the Administration’s maneuver. As a member of this Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will work with my colleagues to maintain New Jersey’s right to enact laws to protect the people of our state.
# # #