States worry as Homeland Security issues chemical-plant rules

Funny story: Of the 15,000 U.S. chemical plants, as many as 7,000 are in highly populated areas and at high risk for an accident or attack. Ha! Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security released the first comprehensive federal rules for tracking the security of such sites. Which seems good, until you realize many states have already enacted even tougher chemical-security laws and are freaking out about whether their laws — or any future versions — will be pre-empted by this one. While Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said the new rules would ensure that the U.S. is “systematically driving down the risk of the most dangerous chemicals,” the rules set no timetable for changes and don’t require a shift to safer chemicals or technology. Said Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, which has one of the toughest laws in place, “The department continues to crawl toward the goal of stronger security, while many of the states know that we should be running toward it.”