The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, March 09, 2003  

The Specter of Specterism

One cannot help but wonder what new bizarre thoughts and theories are running through the mind of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

The Philadelphia Inquirer's March 5 editorial "Fools on the Hill," raises that question, among many others. The editors wrote:

Al-Qaeda operational guru Khalid Shaikh Mohammed may be in custody in a faraway land, but some of the targets of terrorism after which he is said to lust so perversely still have attack appeal -- and very little protection.

While most nuclear-power plants have beefed up security since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many chemical plants have not. In the last year, reporters and environmentalists have easily gained access to critical areas of chemical plants and refineries around the country.

The sooner Congress imposes security requirements, the better….The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are 110 chemical plants across America where a terrorist attack could expose more than 1 million people to a cloud of toxic chemicals….

Homeland Security chief [sic] Tom Ridge and EPA Administrator Christie Whitman have called for tough federal security standards.

Instead, the Senate bowed to industry lobbyists last fall and let a solid proposal by Sen. Jon Corzine (D., N.J.) die without a vote. Seven Republican senators, including Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, actually withdrew support after voting in favor of the bill in committee. [Emphasis added.]

Despite the bad news, brought upon us by Sen. Specter and his allies, there is some hope.

Sen. Corzine has reintroduced his legislation in a new version with what the Inquirer calls "the reasonable compromises hammered out last fall." Sen. Corzine's bill would require the federal government to identify chemical plants that post the greatest risk to their surrounding areas, assess the vulnerability of these sites to terrorist attacks, and to implement and enforce improved security measure.

"It would be worse than a shame should Corzine's bill be sidelined again," the Inquirer editors wrote. "It could be a fatal mistake."

In a state with more than its fair share of chemical plants within or near its borders, can Pennsylvanians count on Sen. Specter not to make the same mistake again?

The specter of Specterism. It's haunting Pennsylvania.

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