Thursday, July 07, 2005

Reducing Our Vulnerability

There's not much left for me to say about this morning's horrible attack in London. The thoughts and prayers of the entire .08 Acre Homestead go out to the victims and their families. It goes without saying that I hope that the perpetrators of this act of terrorism are quickly found and brought to justice before they can destroy any more innocent lives.

Are we vulnerable to a similar attack here? I don't think that anyone realistically thinks that raising the MBTA Security level is going to suddenly make us immune to attacks on the T. The problem that any public transportation system has is that it has to be open to work. Can you imagine going through metal detectors, bag searches and having to take off your shoes every time you take the T? I don't care how expensive gas gets or how bad traffic or parking is, no one would tolerate that for long.

There are other ways, though, we are vulnerable here in Massachusetts that we can prevent. Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved plans for a $250-million LNG facility in Fall River. Fall River Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. had this to say about that development:

"By its decision today, FERC has jeopardized the safety of the citizens of my city by authorizing, for the first time in 30 years, the construction of an LNG terminal in the heart of a densely populated urban area."

Lambert, who vowed to appeal the decision, claimed that FERC has ignored warnings of counter-terrorism experts that the project would present "an invitation to terrorism."
Lambert vowed to kill the project by a thousand paper cuts if necessary, and Attorney General Tom Reilly is also asking FERC to reconsider. Reilly's counterpart, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, was more forceful in his opposition, saying that the Fall River vote "puts a kill zone in the heart of a densely populated New England city". It makes little sense to me to create more potential targets if we can avoid it by just putting the facility off shore, or in a more sparsely populated area.

While the Fall River facility might be moved or stopped, according to a Report Commissioned by Congressman Ed Markey, there are as many as 27 other chemical facilities where a worst-case incident would effect more than 10,000 people. While moving these facilities is likely not realistic, one simple thing we can do to prevent a catastrophe in Massachusetts is to make sure that they have proper security.