New Jersey Makes Chemical Plant Security Practices Mandatory

The Garden State is working to make sure its gardens don't become the site of terrorist attacks on chemical plants. The state has become the first state to create chemical plant security practices that come from the state level rather than the national level. The new regulations are designed to help protect against potential terrorist incidents at chemical producing facilities.

The state has an estimated 140 chemical plants within its borders.

“Certain New Jersey industries are more vulnerable to domestic threats,” said Acting Governor Richard J. Codey, in announcing the new security measures on Nov. 29. “We must explore any measure – including the possibility of using inherently safer technology – to better protect us from uncertainty. We will work with New Jersey businesses to ensure that this initiative improves security and emergency response plans at each chemical facility.”

Similar to what has been proposed on a national level (see recent story), the state requirements require facility security assessments to assess security threats and emergency situation responses and consequences. It also requires a response plan for potential emergencies.

Some 43 of the state's 140 chemical plant facilities also will have to comply with the New Jersey Toxic Catastrophe Prevent Act (TCPA) standards, which requires these plants to review new technologies that relate to security and emergency preparedness.

The new regulations were a bi-product of the state's Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force and a bill co-sponsored by state senators Steve Sweeney and Barbara Buono to update the state's Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act.

The most recent changes follow a 2003 decision to establish voluntary security and emergency preparedness guidelines for the state's chemical and petroleum plants. Those guidelines, for the most part, were created from security measures recommended by the American Chemistry Council and the American Petroleum Institute. The new changes to the Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act essentially turn these security guidelines from being voluntary to being mandatory.

The revised TCPA gives chemical plants 120 days to assess the plants. According to the governor's office, the assessment will need to include:

  • "security systems and access to the facility grounds (including the regular testing and maintenance of security systems)"
  • "existing or needed security measures outside the perimeter of the facility that would reduce vulnerabilities to an attack on the facility"
  • "storage and processing of potentially hazardous materials"
  • "employee and contractor background checks and other personnel security measures"
  • "information and cyber security"

As part of the overall process, the state's Department of Environmental Protection is accepting public and written comments. Written comments for chemical plant security best practices are being accepted through Jan. 5, 2006. Written comments for petroleum plant security best practices are being accepted through Feb. 13, 2006. While the public hearing for chemical plant security has already passed (on Dec. 1), the public hearing for security at petroleum facilities will be held next month, Jan. 12, 2006. Visit the NJ DEP online here to get more details on meeting schedules.