Monday, June 23, 2008


So, Who Pays?!

This story made the rounds over the weekend:
The federal government will tell 7,000 businesses next week that they are considered high risk-terrorist targets because they house large amounts of chemicals.
Fair enough, but here is the kicker:
Homeland security inspectors will eventually visit the highest risk facilities each year to make sure they are complying with enhanced security measures. If these sites do not comply, they could face hefty fines and could ultimately be shut down until they meet federal security standards. As the department considers these 7,000 sites, it also will look at physical security; cyber security; insider threat potential; how hazardous a chemical release could be to the nearby communities; how dangerous the chemicals are if they are mixed with water; and whether the chemicals could be easily stolen from the sites and used to kill.
See here is the problem. These companies provide goods and services that benefit the entire nation. The risks they pose to the public in this instance are through the actions of others. Unlike the the risks associated with various forms of pollution which result from the actions of the company itself, these risks are caused by others. And yet, the federal government chooses to "regulate" once again, this community of businesses - with the threat of PUNITIVE punishment - as if they were the bad actor.

This effort has been on-going since 9-11, and by the way it has been done from the very beginning, it is little more than an effort by the forces aligned against "chemical companies" to gain a foothold to regulate them out of business. No one seriously denies the security risks here, the real question is who pays the cost?

For decades, these companies have been subject to regulation after regulation to decrease the risk of pollution resulting from their operations. They have absorbed these costs as the cost of doing business, because none of them want to be bad citizens. But this is just a step too far. Certainly, in this instance something other than command-and-control regulation is called for.

In a nation where we are willing to use public funds to compensate the victims of terrorism, how can we possible expect corporate citizens to not only bear the cost of securing their facilities against terrorist attack, but also subject them to PUNISHMENT if they do not. Is not national security one of the very legitimate functions of the federal government?

This has been a background story largely not making the general public conscience and that is a shame. There are jobs and GDP at stake. Worse, should plants like this move to other nations, an increasing likelihood as the cost of doing business in the US rises and rises, what happens? Well, the "new" plants are built to lower safety and environmental standards, and managed by less skilled workers (anybody remember Bhopal) The risks to the planet and to the locals around the plant only increase. And, those locals are the true poor of the world.

So we can sit here fat, dumb, and "secure" while we dump our stuff of the world's poor.

Doesn't sound right to me.

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