Collins plan would protect economy and nation

Posted March 25, 2010, at 9:28 p.m.

With the economy and national security at the top of the news and Americans’ minds, Congress is challenged with finding a way to balance both when looking for solutions. Sen. Susan Collins deserves credit for recently introducing bipartisan legislation that strikes such a balance — protecting the nation from a potential attack while providing a greater degree of certainty in these uncertain times.

Security is an important issue to FMC and the facility I manage in Rockland. Sen. Collins’ bill reauthorizes one of the most important national security programs on the books: the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. The program was developed by the Department of Homeland Security to protect the U.S. by deterring potential attacks on chemical facilities. Just as important, the legislation helps protect our economy — both nationally and locally, both immediately and long term — when our economy needs all the help it can get.

According to the Maine Department of Labor, the state’s unemployment rate reached a whopping 8.3 percent in December — up from 6.5 percent the previous year — which means more than 58,000 people are estimated to be out of work across the state. That’s 12,000 more than a year ago.

Sen. Collins’ chemical security legislation will help protect the 7,304 jobs across Maine directly and indirectly dependent on the chemistry industry by ensuring the continuity and certainty of the security program already in place.

When Congress created the standards in 2006 with strong bipartisan support, it required the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to regulate security at thousands of facilities, including scores in Maine. While some facilities are directly involved in chemical production, many more rely on chemicals to operate food processing plants, agricultural facilities, and factories. This diversity of interests reflects the critical role chemicals play in the economy of this country, where they directly touch 96 percent of all manufactured goods.

Under these standards, facilities across the country are taking action to prevent terrorist attacks while lowering the attractiveness of the sites to terrorists. The rules require chemical facilities to address a wide range of threats, such as preventing a bomb-laden car from reaching a target, or preventing the theft or diversion of materials from a site.

The standards also address potential unintended consequences by not dictating the implementation of specific measures, which allows facilities to take into account other important considerations such as labor costs, managing energy consumption and ensuring worker safety when securing their facility. This security program effectively balances the need to protect chemical facilities preserving their ability to provide products and jobs.

Unfortunately, there are those outside of Congress that would like to upset this balance by ignoring the success of the regulations already in place to protect chemical facilities. Not happy with legislation advanced in the Senate or House, they would prefer that Congress introduce legislation that would eliminate chemicals that are essential to our economy and everyday life.

We commend Sen. Collins for sponsoring the bipartisan legislation that will go a long way to ensuring our country continues to benefit from the security measures in place, and, by doing so, providing some economic certainty while continuing to require that all facilities put the necessary security measures in place to deter terrorists.

Kieran O’Dwyer is the plant manager of FMC Corp. in Rockland.

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