• United States



by CSO Contributor

Bush Seeks Chemical Plant Security; Virus Chip Helps Yield Clue to Mystery Illness; Pataki Drops Attempt for Bigger Share of Antiterror Funds

Apr 08, 20033 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Bush Seeks Chemical Plant Security

A Washington Post story today reports that the Bush administration is proposing new legislation to improve security standards at chemical plants that will emphasize voluntary compliance by an industry that some experts say is one of the nation’s most vulnerable to catastrophic terrorist attack. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has identified 123 chemical plants where a terrorist attack could, in a “worst-case” scenario, kill more than 1 million people. And Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge told a Senate committee last July that there are valid concerns about security deficiencies at “dozens and dozens” of chemical plants. Still, he hoped ad hoc industry efforts would preclude any legislation. Nonetheless a chemical security bill was passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee two weeks later, but intensive lobbying by the petrochemical industry resulted in the Republican committee members withdrawing support for the proposed regulation. Now, according to the Post, chairman James Inhofe [R-Okla.] is poised to introduce a bill that embodies the administration’s deregulatory principles, while Jon Corzine [D-N.J.] and John Edwards [D-N.C.] are preparing competing legislation feared by the industry. That would include so-called hazard reduction requirements: The Homeland Security Department would require every plant to make use of the safest chemicals, technologies and processes available. Industry officials say that their plants already are safe and that government attempts to tell them how to run their facilities would amount to micro-management, which could lead to inefficiency and even danger. Virus Chip Helps Yield Clue to Mystery IllnessThe Seattle Times, University of California researcher Joseph DeRisi and his colleagues have developed a “virus chip” that the Centers for Disease Control director has called “the absolute state-of-the-art probe for viral genes. Using the virus chip, which contains DNA fragments from a thousand known strains of virus, De Risi analyzed samples of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, and found that it was something entirely new. Whatever this was, he determined, it was related closely enough to other known viruses to bond to their DNA but exotic enough to suggest that it was something entirely new that had crossed the species barrier. The virus chip could come in handy as epidemiologists try to identify and contain emerging diseases including pathogens that bioterrorists could launch.

According to an AP story in

Pataki Drops Attempt for Bigger Share of Antiterror FundsThe New York Times today, Pataki stepped down from the dispute, and Bloomberg agreed to allow the state to take a share of the city’s antiterrorism money, but only after the city has been reimbursed for all its security costs. It may be a hollow victory for the governor, but both men seem eager to put the dispute behind them. They issued an unusual joint statement late yesterday reaffirming their mutual goal of protecting the city.

Facing a barrage of criticism by members of both parties, New York Governor George Pataki has abandoned his demand that the state receive a greater share of federal antiterrorism money, agreeing to allow New York City to have the money it is seeking from Congress. Pataki and his aides had been urging Congress to change a funding formula that would give New York City 80 percent of any money that is provided to New York State, with state government getting the rest. Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg broke ranks with fellow Republican Pataki and suggested that the governor was trying to grab a share of federal money that the city needs to defend itself against terrorist attacks. According to