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Homeland Security: Federal Action Needed to Address Security Challenges at Chemical Facilities

NCJ Number
John B. Stephenson
Date Published
February 2004
20 pages
This document discusses the security challenges at chemical facilities in the United States and the actions needed to protect these facilities.
Many chemical facilities exist in populated areas where a chemical release could threaten thousands. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that 123 chemical plants located throughout the country could each potentially expose more than a million people if a chemical release occurred. No Federal laws explicitly require that chemical facilities assess vulnerabilities or take security actions to safeguard their facilities from attack. A number of Federal laws impose safety requirements on facilities that may help mitigate the effects of a terrorist-caused chemical release. No Federal oversight or third-party verification ensures that voluntary industry assessments of vulnerability are adequate and that security vulnerabilities are addressed. The Federal Government has not comprehensively assessed the chemical industry's vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks. The EPA, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Justice have taken preliminary steps to assist the industry in its preparedness efforts, but no agency monitors or documents the extent to which chemical facilities have implemented security measures. Federal, State, and local entities lack comprehensive information on the vulnerabilities facing the industry. The chemical manufacturing industry has undertaken a number of voluntary initiatives to address security at facilities. The industry faces a number of challenges in preparing facilities against attacks, including ensuring that all chemical facilities address security concerns. Despite the industry's voluntary efforts, the extent of security preparedness at United States chemical facilities is unknown. Voluntary efforts alone are not sufficient to assure the public of the industry's preparedness. Legislation is now pending that would mandate chemical facilities to take security steps to protect against the risk of a terrorist attack. 10 footnotes, appendix