Despite spending more than $2 billion since the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks to beef up security, and conducting security vulnerability assessments and security upgrades, the 2.000+ members of the American Chemistry Council say the U.S. needs workable federal chemical-security legislation.

Why the switch from voluntary to mandatory measures? ACC wants a level playing field for all chemical companies. The Department of Homeland Security estimates 20 percent of high-risk chemical facilities have not stepped up security actions.

Plus, ACC companies do not want to contend with a patchwork quilt of state chemical facility security laws. In the absence of Congressional action on chemical security, state legislatures are beginning to fill the vacuum. A similar trend more than 20 years ago led the chemical industry to support OSHA's hazard communication standard over state right-to-know laws.

"Our efforts alone are not enough; we represent a minority of the facilities engaged in the chemistry business," wrote Jack N. Gerard, president and chief executive of the ACC, in USA Today.

"We know it is rare to hear an industry asking for more government oversight. But make no mistake: We have acted voluntarily, and we also are calling loudly for new legislation granting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authority over chemical industry security," said Gerard.

ACC is on record with Congress with these recommendations for federal rules:

  • Different chemical facilities pose different risks, based on their differing vulnerabilities and consequences, and any regulatory system must reflect those differences and require security measures commensurate with those risks.

  • Vulnerability assessments should be based on rigorous methodologies like those accepted under the ACC's Responsible Care Security Code.

  • Based on their substantial and verifiable efforts to date, ACC members strongly believe that federal legislation should enable DHS to give credit for their substantial voluntary, at-risk expenditures implementing the Responsible Care Security Code.

  • DHS must have the legal authority to police compliance with its standards and to take enforcement action if necessary.

  • Information about the vulnerabilities of facilities, and the measures they have taken to reduce them, is literally a roadmap for terrorists, according to ACC. A law that required such information to be created, but then permitted it to be released publicly, would be worse than the status quo, according to the group.

  • Fed rules must focus on security risks and not be used as a “back door” for addressing environmental or safety issues.

  • The government should not have the power to order hazard reduction measures to be taken.

  • Security at chemical facilities rests on process safety decisions that must ultimately be left to process safety professionals. Government officials should not be allowed to second-guess process safety decisions.