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On 25th Anniversary of Bhopal Disaster, Lautenberg Highlights Need for Greater Chemical Security
Senator Preparing Legislation To Ensure Stronger Chemical Facility Protections
Lautenberg Press Office (202) 224-3224
Thursday, December 03,
WASHINGTON, DC - Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today marked the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak disaster by calling for stronger security measures at chemical plants across the country. More than 3,500 died in the immediate aftermath of the gas leak in the Indian city of Bhopal and more than 15,000 people have perished from the aftereffects of the tragedy.
“The Bhopal tragedy serves as a warning that a chemical disaster or attack could kill thousands of Americans. We must take steps to protect chemical facilities now,” Sen. Lautenberg said. “We have a responsibility to reduce the use of dangerous chemicals and keep our families and communities safe from potential attacks against these facilities.”
Lautenberg wrote Congress’ first chemical security bill in 1999 and again offered legislation with then-Senator Barack Obama in 2006. Lautenberg remains a leader on strengthening America’s chemical security laws and is currently working on a bill to ensure strong protections are in place to secure chemical facilities in our neighborhoods and to prevent chemical disasters or attacks within the United States.
In 2006, Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security temporary authority to oversee chemical facility security. After the Bush Administration tried to use that authority to preempt and nullify strong state chemical security laws, Lautenberg successfully wrote a law in December 2007 to preserve New Jersey’s strong chemical security rules and ensure they could remain stronger than federal regulations. The two miles between Port Newark and the Newark Liberty International Airport, a stretch filled with chemical facilities, is considered “the most dangerous two miles in America for terrorism,” according to the FBI. The Lautenberg law preserved states’ rights to craft laws necessary to protect their residents. Lautenberg’s legislation was included in the FY2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
The temporary authority granted to DHS in 2006 was recently extended, but is scheduled to expire next year. Senator Lautenberg’s new legislation would create a permanent comprehensive plan to deal with chemical security nationwide. The House passed chemical security legislation last month.
The Bhopal disaster is considered one of the world’s worst industrial accidents. Shortly after midnight on December 3, 1984, deadly methyl isocyanate gas leaked out of a pesticide plant in the Bhopal, immediately killing 3,500 people.
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