Monday, May 3, 2004

Chemical plants at risk?


Kerry charges Bush not doing enough to protect U.S. sites

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The campaign of Democrat John F. Kerry is charging that the Bush Administration hasn't done enough to protect chemical plants - including three in Greater Cincinnati - from terrorist attack.

In a speech in Philadelphia last week, Kerry accused the Bush Administration of putting the interests of the chemical industry above homeland security.

"What are we waiting for?" Kerry said. "The administration is still dragging its heels and we're still fighting to secure our chemical plants. ... Why won't they lead this nation to take every step to prevent one of our own chemical plants from being turned into a weapon of mass destruction against our own people?"

The Bush Administration says it's working with 300 chemical plants to improve security without penalizing the industry.

The three Cincinnati-area plants are among 110 identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as most at risk. A terrorist attack at any one could expose more than 1 million people to a toxic cloud, the EPA says.

The area plants are Morton International Inc. (chlorine) in Reading; Cincinnati Specialties LLC (chlorine) in St. Bernard; and the DuPont Fort Hill Plant (fuming sulfuric acid) in North Bend.

Kerry supports a plan by Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., to require plants to beef up security or face penalties. Corzine says no Republican plan to deal with the threat has even been introduced in the House.

A spokesman for Rep. Steve Chabot, whose 1st District includes all three area facilities, said the Republican congressman hasn't heard from any of the companies - or local officials in the towns where they're located - that there's a concern.

"They're in the best position to identify their security needs. And if there are security needs, they're in the best position to figure out how to deal with them," said Chabot press secretary Brian Griffith.

He also noted that the Cincinnati area is set to receive $20.8 million from the Department of Homeland Security, which can be used to harden targets, and train and equip first-responders.

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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