Maintain ‘eminently sensible’ chemical-plant security rules

In your May 15 Homeland Security special section, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and various members of Congress addressed a number of issues that the country faces as we seek to keep Americans safe from various threats. However, there is another important homeland security issue that was not raised that must be addressed by Congress before the end of the fiscal year — reauthorizing the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) that regulate security at facilities that store chemicals across the country.

We understand Americans expect strong and decisive protective measures from the responsible operators who use or store hazardous chemicals. America’s chemistry industry is the lifeblood of our economy — directly touching 96 percent of all manufactured goods. The business of chemistry employs nearly 1 million Americans, and $500 billion worth of chemistry products flow through the economy. Therefore, securing and maintaining the viability of this critical part of our infrastructure is vital to U.S. prosperity.

Since 2001, American Chemistry Council member companies have spent more than $6.5 billion on improving security at our 2,000 facilities. We supported the bipartisan legislation that created the CFATS program because it raised the bar for security at “high-risk” facilities across the country.

By not boxing facility operators into a singular approach for securing their facilities, the rules allow and encourage operators to consider a wide array of security measures, from process changes to hardening their facilities. The rules require chemical facilities to address a wide range of threats, from preventing a bomb-laden car from reaching a target to preventing theft or diversion of materials from a site. And make no mistake, CFATS has teeth and bite: Any facility that fails to act can be fined and/or shut down by DHS.

Unless Congress reauthorizes the program this year, DHS will not have the time or the resources to continue the task at hand. For example, Secretary Napolitano testified last week in support of additional funding for CFATS and asked that the program be extended.

Due to the significant progress made toward securing the nation’s high-risk chemical facilities, we hope that Congress will once again recognize that the current rules are eminently sensible. We look forward to working with Congress and the Obama administration to make the current program permanent.

Arlington, Va.

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From Roger Pearson

(Regarding article “Reinventing Sen. Chris Dodd,” May 15.) I would be curious to know what reporter Aaron Blake’s basis is for concluding, about a month after Roger Pearson announced his candidacy for Senate, that “there is little to suggest Pearson would provide serious opposition.” Has Aaron come up to Connecticut and checked this out? Has he been anywhere within the Gateway to New England and the Quiet Corner of Windham County, or between the Litchfield Hills and our Groton boatyards? Has he called Roger Pearson and asked him?

Stamford, Conn.