Originally posted to Huffington Post by our Executive Director Phil Radford and co-written by President of the Communications Workers of America Larry Cohen
Even in good weather a major threat looms over many of our largest cities. The threat is in the form of poison gases stored at thousands of U.S. based chemical plants. In the event of an accident, terrorist attack or another climate disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, millions of lives could be put in jeopardy. Although a worse case chemical disaster didn’t happen this time, it easily could have. For example, it was widely reported that Sandy knocked over a 22 car freight train adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike in one of the most densely populated areas of the U.S. If just one of those rail cars was carrying a poison gas such as chlorine and it had ruptured, over a million people would be at risk of immediate injury or death. Trains routinely service major chemical plants. There are 38 high risk chemical plants in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania that each put 100,000 or more workers and residents at risk of a poison gas catastrophe. When these plants suddenly lose power they can become even more dangerous. Last year a sudden power failure triggered a “shelter-in-place” warning to Texas City communities surrounding BP, Valero and Marathon refineries.
Hurricanes and human error aren’t the only threats to chemical facilities. On October 11th Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued a chilling warning saying that these same chemical plants and other sectors are vulnerable to cyber attacks, “The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be a cyber Pearl Harbor.” Continue reading