WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation's chemical companies were ordered Friday to submit to new security inspections and to provide plans for protecting themselves from terrorist attacks.
The orders from the Homeland Security Department, which closely follow the recommendations of the chemical industry, result from legislation President Bush signed into law in October.
Companies are required to assess their own vulnerabilities and provide the government with their plans for fixing them, under the new rules the department released Friday. Industry representatives welcomed their arrival.
''They are following the structure that Congress outlined,'' said Scott Jensen, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council. ''The idea here is to set a security level that they want these facilities to achieve, commensurate with the risk that each facility represents.''
Companies also may contest government disapproval of their security plans.
Democrats taking over Congress in January view the new rules as too soft on industry, and have sought to require manufacturers in some cases to replace toxic materials with safer but more expensive substitutes.
Homeland security officials, however, say the new rules, along with tighter security and tracking for rail shipments of highly toxic materials, will reduce the likelihood of a chemical attack
Turf battles between agencies such as Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency had delayed the new rules.