Friday, December 5, 2008

Reader Comment 12-05-08

Fred Millar, my most responsive reader, had an interesting comment to make about yesterday’s blog (see: “Water Works and Chlorine Politics”) and my calling the Center for American Progress’ report Chemical Security 101 a ‘political manifesto’. He suggested that I might want to add a disclosure statement: "Full disclosure: this blog is consistently a political manifesto that (sometimes exasperatedly) tries to educate the benighted chemical industry how to deal with the likes of critics who would regulate disaster risk facilities." Fred is right, of course, this blog is a political manifesto in its own right. Every day with the selection of the news that I share, with regulations that I examine, and with the opinions I express I am pushing my own personal agenda. I thought that that had been fairly clear, but maybe I ought to put it into words instead of making my readers read between the lines to see what I am trying to do. What I Believe I believe that the chemical industry is one of the most important industries in this country. Chemical companies take a wide variety of raw materials, all of them ultimately natural materials that come from the earth and sun, and convert them to useful products. Most other industries would grind to a halt if it were not for the various products produced in chemical facilities. I believe that most people working in and managing chemical facilities care about safety and security. Both are important to their personal health and prosperity. They live in the communities that are outside of the gates of those plants so they also care about how their products and processes affect those communities. Most of them would be personally devastated if anything that they did, or failed to do, hurt anyone in or outside of their chemical facility. I believe in the United States of America, I served proudly in its military for a significant portion of my adult life. I believe in our system of government with its system of checks and balances and public participation. I believe that everyone deserves to have their voice heard and their point of view considered and our system of government allows for that. I don’t always agree with what comes out of the process, but I respect the process. I also believe that nothing is perfect; particularly this industry. The chemical industry has come a long way since the days of Bhopal and Love Canal. A significant portion of the reason for that progress is pressure applied by groups like the Sierra Club, Green Peace, the Center for American Progress and many other local and national groups. Their finger pointing and complaining has made the public, the government, and the industry (in that order, unfortunately) take a good hard look at the business and process assumptions made by the chemical industry. I believe in continuous improvement. Perfection is a goal that is never obtained. Improvement, however, can only be achieved in steps. This is because that every change brings along unintended consequences; consequences that must be dealt with before the next improvement can be made. Finally, I truly believe that chemical facilities are a unique target for those that would do our great country harm. Damaging chemical production facilities would have a cascading effect on the economy of this country. Since chemical products are so essential to so many other production and agricultural processes, interrupting the flow of those products could have a devastating effect on other industries. The release of hazardous chemicals, the diversion of, or sabotage of those chemicals could have catastrophic consequences for the neighborhoods adjacent to those facilities. What I am Attempting to Do The purpose of this blog is two fold. First I would like to help the chemical industry improve its security processes so that they are less of a target. Second I would like to help those in the industry to learn to listen to their critics and respond to their legitimate concerns. The first is an educational effort. The people in this industry have little or no training in security. They think that security is a fence and a guard; knowing that they would never try to bypass either. They do not understand that any fence can be bypassed in seconds by trained personnel. They do not understand that a guard, armed or otherwise, has little chance of stopping an eighteen wheeler packed with explosives. Nor do they understand that there are other tools and procedures that will make their facilities more secure. The second is partially an educational effort, but it is also somewhat a matter of translating the concerns into a language and tone that can be understood by the technophiles in the industry. The educational effort is directed at explaining at how the political and regulatory processes work as well as pointing out how the industry’s efforts and misdeeds are perceived by the outside world. It is hard to tell how far I am reaching standing on this electronic soap box. Comments and feed back from my readers are the only measures I have. Please keep the cards and letters coming.

1 comment:

John Honovich said...


I think it's great what you are doing. I admire your passion and commitment.

Even though I have little background in the chemical industry, your blog is a great help in educating me on security issues in the industry.

Keep it up!



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