New York Times loses further ground in its exposé on chemical plant security

The New York Times editorial board continues to blend old news with misinformation in its poorly constructed exposé on the security of U.S. chemical facilities (“The Danger Downwind,” May 3, 2012).

Defending the communities in which we operate from potential terrorist threats is a top priority of U.S. chemical manufacturers. It’s reflected in the measures we take to secure of our facilities and in existing regulations that ensure swift and sound implementation of those measures.

In fact, over 1,600 chemical facilities – once deemed a “high risk” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – no longer need to be regulated under the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. That’s because the companies fulfilled their commitment to reducing risk by overhauling important business operations and reducing the quantity and type of chemicals on site.

The NYT editorial, however, called these regulations “weak” in what appears to be an effort to undermine the success and effectiveness of the program.

Importantly, the editorial board also misunderstood potential threats from drinking water and wastewater treatment plants that it claimed are not covered by current chemical safety regulations. This is not true. In fact, the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 specifically focuses on drinking water facilities.

The law requires community water systems serving more than 3,300 people to conduct a vulnerability assessment to terrorist attacks, prepare an emergency response plan that incorporates the results of the vulnerability assessment, certify to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the vulnerability assessment and emergency response plan have been completed, and provide a copy of the assessment to EPA.

To improve security in our nation’s ports, the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 directed the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to identify vessels and port facilities that pose a high risk of being involved in a transportation security incident, to conduct a vulnerability assessment of these facilities and vessels and develop security plans.

Despite all this, the New York Times editorial board still missed the most important point of all: chemical manufacturers in this country are naturally motivated to prevent a terrorist attack on their facilities, and they have spent billions of dollars to ensure their employees and the communities in which they operate are safe.

No one understands chemical manufacturing better than the manufacturers themselves, and no one is better equipped than we are to protect this important part of our country’s critical infrastructure.

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