Chemical Industry Admits Security Lapses Unacceptable; Legislation Needed

Article excerpt

Following a scathing report on CBS' "60 Minutes," in which correspondent Steve Kroft reported that chemical plants are still not subject to federal regulations when it comes to security, and proved it by walking around unchallenged through a chemical plant, the chemical industry has responded that, perhaps, federal legislation is needed to regulate security after all.

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Greg Lebedev is president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents the largest U.S. chemical manufacturers. ACC, which has opposed federal security regulations for the industry, has advocated voluntary measures. Apparently at some facilities, those voluntary measures don't work.

"Chemical makers employ more than 1 million people ... So it's right to ask: What's being done to protect the men and women who work at chemical facilities, their neighbors and these essential products from terrorist attack?" says Lebedev.

While he claims that ACC's 145 members already have done much to secure their properties, he admits, "More needs to be done."

Steve Kroft and Carl Prine, an investigative reporter at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, think so too. They walked around the Neville Chemical Plant with a news camera. No one approached Kroft and Prine until they were technically off the property. After explaining they were reporters doing a story about security at chemical plants, they were arrested for trespassing. If they had been terrorists, planting a bomb, the damage would have been done by that point.

Prine began probing security at chemical plants six months after Sept. 11. He told "60 Minutes" he visited 60 chemical facilities across the country, including ones in the Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Houston areas. "I found almost non-existent security in a lot of places," he said. "I walked right up to the tanks. There was one plant in Chicago, I simply sat on top of the tank and waved: 'Hello, I'm on your tank.'"

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He said no one tried to stop him. He took pictures at all the facilities, and later informed the companies, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and ACC, that he had been able to gain entry with no problem. …