Philip Perry–Making Sure Our Chemical Faciliities Have No Security

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Philip Perry, a former member of the powerful Latham and Watkins law firm in Washington, DC, left the law firm in 2000 to become part of the transition team of his father-in-law, Dick Cheney. He then became the third-highest ranking official in John Ashcroft’s Justice Department before serving as General Counsel to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

When the post-September 11 Environmental Protection Agency made an attempt to regulate the security at chemical industry facilities, Perry used his position at the OMB to block the attempt. According to Art Levine, writing for Washington Monthly, Perry told executive branch officials, “If you send up this legislation, it will be dead on arrival on the Hill.”

That same year, 2003, Perry returned to his practice at Latham and Watkins, which represented a major chemical industry trade group. After two years, however, Perry went to the Department of Homeland Security, where he became General Counsel. Once Perry joined DHS, the department granted itself the power to set aside state laws, which decreased the level of security required for chemical facilities. There is nothing in the Homeland Security law which grants the DHS such power.

One Congressional staff describes Perry as “an éminence grise. He’s been pretty good at getting his fingerprints off of anything, but everyone in this field knows he’s the one directing it.” Levine calls Perry “a key player in the struggle to prevent the federal government from assuming any serious regulatory role in business, no matter what the cost.”

In January, Perry announced his intention to leave DHS. During his tenure in the federal government, both at OMB and DHS, he has successfully blocked every attempt made by a federal agency and Congress to provide reasonable security to chemical plants, storage tanks and rail cars.

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