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April 30, 2007


House Advances Ammonium Nitrate Bill

Legislation would require federal regulations for handling fertilizer used in terrorist bombs

Glenn Hess

The government will have to regulate all sales and purchases of ammonium nitrate fertilizer under a House bill that could be on a fast-track toward passage.

FERTILIZER OVERSIGHT Terra Industries' Yazoo City, Miss., nitrogen manufacturing plant could soon be subject to new federal regulations to protect against terrorist use of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

The Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act of 2007 (H.R. 1680) gained unanimous approval from the House Homeland Security Committee on April 26. The measure would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a regulatory system to help keep ammonium nitrate out of the hands of those with criminal intent.??

The widely used and easily obtained fertilizer was the main ingredient in the truck bomb that blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more. The terrorist group al Qaeda also used ammonium nitrate bombs in a 2002 attack on the Indonesian island of Bali and in two attacks in 2003 in Istanbul.??

"America has been waiting for 12 years for the bill, and we are finally coming down the homestretch," says Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the homeland security panel.??

The bill would require all ammonium nitrate producers, sellers, and purchasers who take custody of the material to register with DHS. All registrations would be checked against terrorist watch lists, and in this regard, the bill also includes provisions for expedited reviews of registration applications, notification of application status, and an appeals process.

In addition, the bill would require producers and sellers to maintain records of all sales for two years, including the producer's name, address, phone number, registration number, and the date and quantity of ammonium nitrate sold. The bill, which does not preempt state law, requires all thefts or unexplained losses be reported to federal law enforcement within 24 hours.??

The fertilizer industry supports the legislation. "Through its creation of a uniform national system for tracking ammonium nitrate sales, the committee is helping ensure that this valuable fertilizer remains available for its intended purpose," says Ford West, president of the Fertilizer Institute. "We urge the full House to act swiftly to approve this key measure."

A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

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