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November 24, 2003
Volume 81, Number 47
CENEAR 81 47 p. 12
ISSN 0009-2347


ANTITERRORISM

‘60 MINUTES’ SHOWS SECURITY LACKING
Despite years of talk, chemical plants remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks

JEFF JOHNSON

On a “60 minutes” program that aired on Nov. 16, TV and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporters ambled onto the grounds of Neville Chemical in Pittsburgh. No guards blocked their path as they filmed tanks holding lethal quantities of boron trifluoride and anhydrous ammonia.

AT RISK Some U.S. chemical plants offer inadequate security measures.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY PHOTO
Carl Prine, a Tribune-Review reporter, has written much about his unauthorized entry into 60 large U.S. chemical plants in the two years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. While industry and government make tough security claims, the “60 Minutes” show and Prine’s reporting paint a different picture.

Some 15,000 U.S. chemical plants use potentially deadly chemicals in large volumes, and more than 100 plants have enough to kill or injure 1 million people, government reports say.

The Department of Homeland Security is analyzing the terrorist threat to the chemical sector and, on Nov. 14, announced completion of security plans for two dozen high-risk chemical plants. DHS says it will inspect 4,000 more chemical sites next year.

Meanwhile, chemical trade associations’ programs to toughen plant security will cover, at best, 4,000 member plants.

In Congress, the Senate is stuck on language for a plant security bill, particularly risk reduction requirements.

Although initially opposing federal legislation, the American Chemistry Council is now a supporter. Still, “60 Minutes” took ACC to task.

On the program and in follow-up interviews, ACC officials condemned security lapses and said the program shows the need for more work. They also tout their plant security program, coupled with a federal law.

Back at Neville, Vice President Jack Ferguson noted that the company had halved storage of boron trifluoride to reduce risk but put off security enhancements for economic reasons. That will change, he added.



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