Senate Bill Proposes National Chemical Plant Security Regulations

A Senate plan for stronger government regulation of chemical security plants will allow states to set tougher standards than initially envisioned, according to legislation filed Monday.

The bipartisan bill would allow the Homeland Security Department to shut down chemical plants that repeatedly fail to create, update and submit security plans for their facilities.

The chemical industry - which experts believe is a top target for terrorists - generally self-regulates its 15,000 plants nationwide on a voluntary basis.

The final plan, by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., does not set specific minimum standards for the industry to meet. But, in a change from a draft proposal obtained by The Associated Press three weeks ago, it would allow states to set even tougher standards than federal requirements.

Senate aides said the change largely was guided by Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine, who has been pushing for years for stronger chemical plant regulation, and was elected last month as New Jersey's governor.

Whether the House - which has long resisted legislation to regulate the chemical industry - will embrace the bill next year when Congress returns to Washington is unclear.

The Senate plan does not answer environmental advocates who have urged that the industry be required to use certain kinds of chemical materials that would be less dangerous to the public in an attack or accidental release. Without such a requirement, the environmentalists have said, federal regulations would not go far enough to protect communities.


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