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N.J. Imposes Strict Rules on Chemical Plant Security

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N.J. Imposes Strict Rules on Chemical Plant Security

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N.J. Imposes Strict Rules on Chemical Plant Security

N.J. Imposes Strict Rules on Chemical Plant Security

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New Jersey officials announce strict new rules to better safeguard the state's many chemical plants from terrorist attack. The move comes after criticism that the state allowed the industry to set its own safety rules — rules that some believe leave the plants too vulnerable.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

New Jersey has some tough new rules for chemical companies. It has become the first state to require chemical plants to protect themselves and the public from a terrorist attack or a catastrophic accident. New Jersey announced the new rules yesterday after months of criticism that the state relied too heavily on the chemical industry to address safety concerns. NPR's Nancy Solomon reports.

NANCY SOLOMON reporting:

New Jersey has some of the most dangerous chemical plants in the nation, and some of those are located perilously close to heavily populated urban areas, most notably New York City. Elvin Montero, spokesman for the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, says the new regulations are a slap in the face to the state's chemical industry.

Mr. ELVIN MONTERO (Spokesperson, Chemistry Council of New Jersey): What we are concerned with is the end or the abandoning, if you will, of the cooperative approach that the state and our sector shared for many years in working together. It gives a perception that our industry hasn't done anything, which, in fact, in New Jersey, we've done a lot.

SOLOMON: Since 9/11, Montero says, chemical plants in New Jersey have voluntarily spent millions of dollars in the form of gates, cameras and guards. But New Jersey will now require 140 chemical plants to evaluate whether they can produce their products in a safer way, with different chemicals or by stockpiling less. This provision, called inherently safer technology, has been the primary objection of the industry both in New Jersey and nationally. Fred Millar, a chemical safety expert who's worked for environmental organizations and now consults with cities, says it's the only way to make plants safer.

Mr. FRED MILLAR (Chemical Safety Expert): But it really won't happen unless there's some government presence there because it's just really too cheap and too easy to continue having the old situation of lots of really toxic chemicals in storage on your facility.

SOLOMON: New Jersey chemical plants will now have 120 days to complete a review of their security and chemical processes. Governor-elect Jon Corzine says the new regulations are a good first step, and he plans to make them even tougher when he takes office. For NPR News, I'm Nancy Solomon.

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