Government officials estimate that a terrorist attack on a facility such as an oil refinery or power plant upwind of Denver could kill up to 10,000 people, reports the city’s Post. And thousands more people near dozens of other facilities around Colorado could be threatened if chemicals were released during an attack. Congress is looking at regulating chemical-plant security nationwide, a responsibility that has been left up to companies. Closing this gap has emerged as a priority as the Department of Homeland Security is reshaped under new Secretary Michael Chertoff to focus more on preventing catastrophic events.
Agency officials “recognize that voluntary measures are not enough, and thus we are moving forward with recommendations that we have a regulatory framework,” spokeswoman Michelle Petrovich said. Security experts advocate better fencing, increased setbacks from roads, simulated attacks to train guards, and electronic surveillance, but lobbyists for the $450 billion chemical industry oppose major changes, saying the likelihood of an attack against industrial targets is minimal. Some companies in Colorado have blocked state security officials from entering their facilities to conduct post-9/11 risk assessments. No law requires companies to comply.