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U.S. PIRG and American Chemistry Council Have Differing Views on Safety and Security

New York, Apr 09, 2004

A report issued earlier this month by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) claims that thousands of industrial chemical facilities put millions of Americans at risk of serious injury or death in the event of a chemical accident. At issue is the American Chemistry Council (ACC), whose members produce nearly 90% of the chemicals manufactured in the United States. The report cites more than 25,000 accidents at current ACC member companies’ facilities and argues that the voluntary precautions of the Responsible Care® program are not enough to protect Americans from accidental chemical releases or the possibility of terrorist attacks. The ACC initiated the Responsible Care® program in 1988 in response to criticism of the industry’s environmental and public safety track record.

The U.S. PIRG report analyzes accident data compiled by the National Response Center, the sole national point of contact for reporting oil and chemical discharges into the environment in the United States, for 1990 through 2003. The report looked only at ACC member companies, who are required to adopt the Responsible Care® guidelines as a condition of their membership in the trade association.

In response to the report, ACC stated that accidents at facilities involving chemicals have actually been decreasing steadily under Responsible Care®. The number of injuries and fatalities has also continued to decrease, allegedly setting the safety record of chemical makers who belong to ACC as four times better than American manufacturing as a whole.

According to ACC, an ANSI member, Responsible Care® has resulted in significant reductions in releases to air, land and water, major improvements in workplace and community safety, and expanded programs to research and test chemicals for potential health and environmental impacts. The ACC response cites recent remarks by President Bush that pointed to efforts underway in the administration and Congress to improve the security of America’s critical infrastructure, including establishment of “uniform standards for securing chemical sites, (that) gives DHS the power to enforce those standards.”

“ACC supports meaningful and responsible federal security legislation that empowers the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to require all chemical facilities to address security as rigorously as the members of the ACC.” Currently, ACC member companies are implementing an extensive security program under the Responsible Care® Security Code, which addresses site, transportation, and cyber security

U.S. PIRG advocates mandatory federal standards for security and new federal standards that focus on reducing or eliminating the possibility of accidents and attacks through the use of safer chemicals and processes.

ANSI Nanotechnology Standards Panel