WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation's chemical companies will have to submit to new security inspections and provide the government with plans for protecting themselves from terrorist att

acks.

The proposed orders issued Friday by the Homeland Security Department would take effect April 4, a deadline set by Congress and President Bush. The orders closely follow the recommendations of the chemical industry and result from legislation Bush signed into law in October.

Companies will be required to assess their own vulnerabilities and provide the government with their plans for fixing them, under the proposed new rules released Friday for public comment. Industry representatives welcomed their arrival.

``They are following the structure that Congress outlined,'' said Scott Jensen, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, which represents the largest chemical makers. ``The idea here is to set a security level that they want these facilities to achieve, commensurate with the risk that each facility represents.''

The council's 133 members lobbied for the new rules and have spent $3.5 billion on security upgrades to their 2,000 facilities since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Jensen said.

Companies 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.

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