The first piece of major anti-terror legislation in New York state co-sponsored by Assemblymember Michael Gianaris and state Senator Frank Padavan, has won final approval in both houses and now awaits consideration by Governor George Pataki.
The Power Plant Security Bill would require security standards for all energy production and power transmission facilities anywhere in the state, which would ensure greater safety and oversight through a uniform set of procedures.
Northwest Queens, because of the high number of power plants in Astoria and Long Island City, would be among the areas that would benefit most from the added security.
"We’ve achieved passage of the first major anti-terror legislation since the World Trade Center attacks," Gianaris (D–Astoria) declared. "I am hopeful that the governor will now sign this important security measure into law."
Padavan (R–C, Bellerose) stated "This legislation increases public safety and protects vital infrastructure. We’re being proactive and maintaining the senate’s strong commitment to homeland security. In today’s climate of global terrorism, it’s naive to think facilities charged with providing essential services aren’t now or won’t someday be targets."
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R–Rensslear), commented:
"Currently, there are no security requirements for any of these facilities. Security decisions are left to each individual entity to determine. While many of these facilities do have their own security measures, there is no standard they must meet, nor is there required state supervision of such measures. This legislation is designed to ensure greater safety and oversight by creating a uniform set of procedures."
Gianaris, who has made the power industry a main focus of his still young career as a state lawmaker, explained that the bill requires the New York state Director of Public Security to review security measures to be taken at all power generating plants, transmission lines and other energy-related facilities in the state.
"By allowing the Director’s recommendations to be mandated," Gianaris emphasized, "it would ensure that these facilities assume their responsibility to the public by installing security measures to protect against terrorist plots as well as other disasters."
Gianaris also noted that overwhelming bipartisan support reflected New Yorkers’ increased concern about security measures and the belief that public officials are responsible for ensuring that sufficient security measures are being taken at vulnerable locations such as power plants.
"This legislation will have a huge impact in communities like my own that shoulder the burden of being neighbors with several power plants and energy-related facilities," Gianaris declared. "This legislation will ensure that the public’s safety is seriously addressed at vulnerable facilities."
Echoing Bruno’s comment, Gianaris noted that currently no state oversight of security exists at any of the plants and there is presently no law to ensure that public safety measures are addressed at these critical infrastructure facilities.
Gianaris, reviewing the history of homeland security since September 11, said there had been a number of security alerts related to critical infrastructure sites. On several occasions, he said, there were reports that power plants and other energy-related facilities were being targeted by terrorists. The young lawmaker said his relentless efforts to gather backing for this security legislation were fueled by his knowledge that these facilities are not required to provide any form of security to protect New Yorkers from attacks.
He vowed, "While I am confident that our first responders can efficiently handle any situation, no matter how severe, I am determined to make it as difficult as possible for another attack to occur. As lawmakers, I feel it is our responsibility to take preventive measures so that we may avoid any further damage to our state."
In addition to the Gianaris–Padavan Power Plant Security bill, Gianaris has also sponsored the Chemical Security Act of 2003, which would deal with similar security concerns at chemical storage facilities. Because of his focus on homeland security, he was recently cited in a national publication regarding the state’s need to form a comprehensive plan for facilities that are known terrorist targets.