A Firefighter Speaks Out On the Need for Real Chemical Security

110 million Americans live with the risk of a large-scale chemical disaster, and many of those are the brave citizens who respond when the worst happens.
Ed Schlegel is a retired Fire Captain in California who has first-hand experience with responding to a chemical disaster. He was one of the brave citizens who marched into a chemical plant leaking deadly chlorine gas when the employees were running out. He is proud to protect us, but he knows than many chemical plants don't have to pose this risk.

It hard to believe that in a post-9/11 world we are not doing everything we can to reduce terrorist targets. All over the country there are chemical and water treatment facilities that are like sitting ducks, unnecessarily storing large amounts of toxic gasses that put thousands to millions of people at risk of a disaster. As we watch the unfolding tragedy in the Gulf we should realize that hypothetical worst-case scenarios can be frighteningly underestimated when they become a reality.

The Senate Needs To Act

Congress has been wrestling with chemical security standards for over a decade and it is now the Senate's turn to pass common-sense measures that reduce the risk of a catastrophic release of poison gas. Senator Lautenberg of New Jersey (a state riddled with chemical facilities) introduced a package of legislation last week that would protect millions of Americans. Once again, though, industry is putting profits over disaster prevention by spreading unsubstantiated claims of economic disaster and job loss.

Creating 8,000 New Jobs

This bill is endorsed by a broad coalition, including leading labor groups. We didn't think this bill, or the similar legislation passed in the House last November would hurt jobs or the economy, so we had Management Information Services, Inc (MISI) do an independent economic study to prove it. MISI shows that the House passed bill will actually create 8,000 jobs and leverage nearly $2 billion in economic stimulus. Furthermore, the two sectors of the economy that will benefit the most are the chemical industry and publicly-owned water treatment plants.

Ed Schlegel's senator, Senator Barbara Boxer is head of one of the committees considering Senator Lautenberg's legislation. With millions of people at risk in California she needs to schedule a vote before the Senate leaves for August recess. All senators should hear from their constituents about this and tell them to support Senator Lautenberg's legislation. Disaster prevention should not wait any longer, it is time for real chemical security now.