Long-awaited legislation in the Senate that would toughen security requirements for chemical plants is getting mixed reviews, with industry groups saying it is consistent with their voluntary efforts and some public interest groups saying it comes up short.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee, introduced the legislation Dec. 19, along with the committee's top-ranking Democrat, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
The legislation would toughen federal laws for chemical plant security, a proposal welcomed by both the American Chemistry Council and the National Environmental Trust.
But Washington-based NET said it is disappointed that the bill does not call for ``inherently safer technologies'' that would require companies to reduce or replace chemicals the government considers too dangerous. Collins and Lieberman have ``underestimated their ability to shape the debate in Congress,'' according to NET.
But the chemical industry opposes such measures, questioning how well-suited the government is to judge which technologies are safer. Arlington, Va.-based ACC said it welcomes the current legislation because it would hold all chemical companies to the standard ACC members have adopted voluntarily.
``America needs a comprehensive federal plan to secure the critical chemical infrastructure,'' said ACC Chief Executive Officer Jack Gerard.
The bill would require chemical plants to prepare vulnerability assessments and gives the Department of Homeland Security jurisdiction over facilities. NET said the legislation also would allow states to enact tougher measures.