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Look for laws to tighten chemical plant security

The American Chemistry Council says it generally supports a new General Accounting Office report that calls for a national strategy to address chemical security.

ACC is urging Congress to pass legislation that will set up a national program to ensure that chemical facilities conduct vulnerability assessments and address deficiencies.

The GAO report recommends that the heads of EPA and the Department of Homeland Security jointly develop a comprehensive national chemical security strategy that is "both practical and cost-effective." This would include assessing vulnerabilities and enhancing security preparedness, GAO said.

EPA believes that the Clean Air Act could be interpreted to provide authority to require chemical facilities to assess risks and to make security enhancements. But the agency opted against enforcement because it feared it would trigger too many lawsuits, GAO noted.

The Bush administration wants Congress to address the chemical plant safety issue through passage of specific legislation.

EPA and the Department of Justice are expected to ask Congress to consider tighter restrictions on risk management plans called for by federal clean air law. Facilities prepare and submit RMPs to EPA at least every five years.

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