N.J. senator introduces chemical, water plant security bills

Last week, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) announced that he has introduced two new pieces of legislation related to the security of chemical and water treatment plants on the heels of a report from the EPA, which found that more than 12,000 facilities nationwide put people at risk of chemical exposure in the event of an accident or terrorist attack.

According to a statement, the "Secure Water Facilities Act" and "Secure Chemical Facilities Act," would require chemical, drinking water and wastewater facilities across the country to use Inherently Safer Technology (IST) to reduce risks posed to local communities and the environment.

Among some of the specific requirements set forth in the bills include:

• Requiring chemical and water plants to assess their vulnerability and develop a plan that would address those security risks.

• Make facilities that use dangerous chemicals to evaluate whether they could reduce the consequences of an attack by using a safer substance or process. Plants designated as high-risk facilities would be required to implement those safer measures if it is feasible.

• Protect sensitive information from disclosure while also ensuring information sharing between state and local governments and first responders.

• Allow communities to have a role in ensuring plants comply with these regulations.

• Authorize grants to help offset the costs of assessing vulnerabilities and developing and implementing safer procedures.

"The risk is great for millions of Americans living in the shadow of the thousands of chemical plants and water treatment facilities across America. These plants provide valuable services, but they also pose significant threats," Lautenberg said in the statement. "We need to pass my legislation to require facilities to thoroughly review risk and help us move toward more secure plants and safer communities. Hundreds of plants have already switched to safer and more secure chemicals and processes, and this common-sense legislation would build on these achievements and increase safety nationwide."