Bush administration backs industry-friendly chemical-security rules

After years of foot dragging, the Bush administration is now backing federal security regulations to protect the nation’s chemical plants from terrorist attacks — but critics say the new rules may as well have been written by the industry itself. Speaking Tuesday at a forum organized by chemical-industry spokesflacks, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff touted the administration’s newfound will to advance “sensible legislation,” like rules that would allow plants to establish their own security practices and would not force them to switch from dangerous chemicals to safer alternatives. He also tickled the assembled industry leaders by implying uniform federal standards should supersede state rules, even if state rules are stronger — perhaps a reference to New Jersey, which last year became the first state to require assessments of chemical-plant security. A staffer to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) called the Bush administration’s stance an “Enron mentality: trust industry and put the public at risk.”