In one case, reporter Steve Kroft took a camera onto the grounds of a plant near Pittsburgh containing toxic boron triflouride and walked about unnoticed for 15 minutes.
Lax security also was found by 60 Minutes at plants across the country, including near Los Angeles, in Houston, Chicago and the New York metropolitan area. In all, about 15,000 facilities across the country produce or store deadly chemicals.
The report also covered the failed legislation of Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) that attempted to regulate plant security. "My bill was crushed by the American Chemical Council...who were looking after their private interests and not the public's interest," he told Kroft.
The president of the ACC, Greg Lebedev, told Kroft his organization now welcomes government regulation and says the majority of the 15,000 facilities are "safe and secure." In addition, members of the ACC are being required to enhance security by the end of 2004, said Lebedev. But the ACC has just seven percent of the 15,000 companies as members.
"I think government has to get into this game, and the sooner the better," said former senator Warren Rudman, who has been warning about the potential for terrorist attacks on plants since before September 11. There is a bill in the Senate, but it does not go as far as the one Corzine has been trying to get passed for two years. The current bill would allow the government to set security standards, but not grant it criminal enforcement powers against companies not complying.