Markey And Lynch Question Low-Risk Rating Assigned To Port Of Boston, Shortchanges High-Profile Port Of Federal Security Money

Oct 10, 2006

Markey and Lynch Call on Chertoff to Re-evaluate Wrongheaded Ratings and Make It Possible for Boston to Apply for Higher Levels of Federal Port Security Funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, joined by Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff to express serious concern about the low security risk designation that DHS assigned the Port of Boston.  Boston was placed near the bottom of the risk rankings, despite handling almost 16 million tons of cargo each year and massive deliveries of volatile and dangerous liquid natural gas which passes through the port on its way to the Everett liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility. 

Rep. Markey said, "The Port of Boston is a busy port near the only LNG facility located in a densely populated urban area, making it a very attractive terrorist target.  Let’s not forget that Boston was the launching point for two of the four planes on September 11th, and one of the terrorists planning to attack the Los Angeles airport entered our country on an LNG tanker in Everett.  It defies common sense that the Bush Administration and Secretary Chertoff would rank our port at the lowest risk level, making it more difficult for Massachusetts to receive the federal port security funds that it urgently needs to provide the required security safeguards.”

Rep. Lynch, member of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, said, "Classifying the Port of Boston as a low security risk flies in the face of common sense and runs contrary to our experience here. This is a major commercial port where over 15 million tons of cargo gets transported within miles of densely settled residential communities.  We also have LNG tankers that travel through the Port regularly and which constitute a high risk terrorist target. Republicans are playing pork barrel politics with homeland security.  There is no other way to explain why Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo in Huntsville, Alabama, was classified as "critical infrastructure" by DHS, while the Port of Boston is under-funded. We call on Secretary Chertoff to immediately correct this serious lapse in judgment.”


Below is the text of Reps. Markey and Lynch’s letter to Sec. Chertoff:

October 10, 2006

The Honorable Michael Chertoff

Secretary

Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20528

 

Dear Secretary Chertoff:

 

            We are  writing to express our strong opposition to the decision by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to relegate the Port of Boston to the lowest security risk tier as part of the Department’s process for evaluating port security grant applications and determining which grant applications should receive funding in the latest round of the Fiscal Year 2006 Port Security Grant Program (PSGP). 

 

As you know, in the latest PSGP round, DHS provided the Boston port area with $147,750 in funding, which represents less than 5 percent of the total amount of funding requested in a total of 10 Massachusetts applications.  We urge the Department to immediately reopen its evaluation of the security risks at the Port of Boston to more accurately place the port in a higher risk category that reflects the port’s unique security challenges and enables applications from the Boston port area to be eligible for additional funding available for ports in higher risk tiers.

 

According to DHS, 78 ports, including the Port of Boston, were designated as lowest risk (Tier 4) and eligible for a potential share of $25 million in grant funding, while 4 ports were designated as highest risk (Tier 1) and eligible for a potential share of $50 million.  Clearly, placement in the lowest risk category compels Massachusetts’ applications to compete against more applications for fewer dollars than placement in the highest risk category requires.  DHS has provided the following explanation of the method it used to calculate risk:

 

"The risk scores for each port, and their subsequent Tier assignments, were determined through an analysis of threats, vulnerabilities and consequences.  This included an assessment by the intelligence community about the intent and capability of known terrorist groups to target specific port areas, as well as consideration of specific factors such as the distance of the port from open water, the port’s volume of activity, the potential for casualties from an attack, and the economic and strategic impacts of an attack on the port.  This analysis placed the Port of Boston in Tier 4 (the lower of the tier groupings).”

 

Given the Department’s criteria for assessing risk, it is incomprehensible that the Port of Boston has been determined to belong in the lowest risk tier.  Would-be millennium bomber Abdelghani Meskini smuggled himself into the U.S. via a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanker that docked in Everett, Massachusetts near Boston. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Bush Administration counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke ordered the closure of Boston Harbor to protect against potential follow-on attacks In 2004, the federal government ordered LNG deliveries to Everett halted during the Democratic National Convention in Boston due to security concerns. 

 

The Port of Boston is a bustling port that handles more than 1.3 million tons of general cargo, 1.5 million tons of non-fuels bulk cargo and 12.8 million tons of bulk fuel cargos annually, including gasoline and oil, which also could pose a security risk.  Shipments to the LNG facility in Everett must travel through Boston Harbor and in very close proximity to downtown Boston and densely populated communities like Everett and neighboring cities and towns.  This particular configuration is unlike any other LNG terminal in the United States and warrants the special attention of the Department. 

 

Moreover, the LNG facility provides about 20 percent of all of the natural gas consumed in New England annually, and during period of peak demand, the Everett terminal accounts for about 35 percent of all natural gas consumed in New England.  The economic damage and human casualties resulting from a successful attack on the LNG terminal would be significant. 

 

By the Department’s own risk formula, it appears that the port of Boston should have been assigned to a higher risk category consistent with its unique security challenges, including its proximity to the LNG terminal in Everett, the only LNG terminal located in an urban area, and the port’s past history as a port utilized by terrorists seeking to attack our country. 

 

Accordingly, we request that the Department provide all documentation and analysis used to place the Port of Boston in the lowest risk category as part of the PSGP process and urge the Department to immediately re-evaluate the calculations used to justify the risk score assigned to the Port of Boston.  If any of these materials are classified, please provide them in a separate classified annex and contact our staff to make arrangements for the appropriate review of the documents. 

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

 

                                                            Sincerely,

                                    Edward Markey                       Stephen Lynch

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