Port safety bill introduced

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, security experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before terrorists breach America’s world shipping system. The worst-case scenario, which Harman referred to, is the possibility of an explosive radiological device making it into a port such as Los Angeles/Long Beach, which serves as the gateway for 42 percent of all cargo containers entering the country. An attack of that magnitude, experts have warned, could cripple the economy. But while lawmakers with ports in their districts have long pushed for heightened security, airports and airline safety have gotten the most attention. In his 2007 budget, President George W. Bush proposed lumping port security in with other infrastructure protection. Meanwhile, port officials say the approximately $708 million in federal security grants doled out nationwide since 2002 accounts for only about one-fifth of what seaports need. WASHINGTON – Seizing on attention over security in the wake of a failed Dubai deal to manage six U.S. ports, California lawmakers introduced a $4 billion bill Tuesday aimed at preventing a terrorist attack at sites including Los Angeles/Long Beach. Sponsored by Reps. Jane Harman, D-El Segundo, and Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, the measure would establish minimum standards for cargo-container screening and require that the names of port employees with access to secure areas be matched against terrorist watch lists. It also would create a tier system under which countries and private entities providing the greatest level of security cooperation would receive the greatest benefits. “The idea of a dirty bomb smuggled into one of our ports in a container keeps me up at night,” Harman said. “Port security is the Achilles’ heel of our national security.” Lawmakers said the recent controversy over Dubai World Ports – which last week pulled out of a deal to manage six U.S. ports – has changed the political landscape. “If there was any silver lining, it was the focus that incident placed on the security of our ports,” Lungren said. He noted that Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., is backing the legislation and said a hearing is scheduled for Thursday. “This bill marks the end of a lack of urgency,” he said. “This is not a bill we’re introducing for the purpose of making a statement. This is a bill we’re introducing for the purpose of making a law.” Harman called the Dubai deal “a wake-up call” to Congress about port security. The bill also directs the secretary of Homeland Security to develop a plan for resuming trade in the event of a seaport attack. “It is critical that we not just fall down” if a terrorist attack occurs, Harman said, noting that during a brief lockdown of Western port facilities during a strike in 2002, the nation lost about $1 billion in business every day. About $2 billion of the proposed funding in the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act will go for risk-based grants over five years. The rest will go toward research and development to improve maritime security and other provisions. Lungren said he and Harman have not proposed raising new fees, something port operators strongly oppose. Rather, he said, the bill proposes dedicating a portion of current customs fees toward security, something that now is not done. The measure already has attracted bipartisan support from more than 40 lawmakers. The California supporters include Reps. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove; Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs; Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced; Grace Napolitano, D-Santa Fe Springs; Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles. Lisa Friedman, (202) 662-8731 lisa.friedman@langnews.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img