[Congressional Record Volume 141, Number 85 (Monday, May 22, 1995)]
[House]
[Pages H5371-H5373]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]


                      AMMONIUM NITRATE FERTILIZER

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of May 
12, 1995, the gentleman from Louisiana [Mr. Tauzin] is recognized for 
60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
  Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, I take this special order this afternoon to 
report to you and to the American public on a hearing that was just 
completed by the Commerce Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce, a 
hearing designed to explore the possibility that may have existed as 
long as 25 years or more ago to render ammonium nitrate fertilizer 
insensitive to its use as a bomb material in America.
  I hold in my hand a patent that was issued by the U.S. Patent Office 
on January 20, 1968, a patent developed by Mr. Sam Porter in Arlington, 
VA, here, that literally details how a simple addition of diammonium 
phosphate to ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the manufacturing process 
could, in fact, desensitive the product so that it cannot be turned 
into a bomb, much like the bomb which may have been used to detonate 
the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
  My interest in this subject matter goes back a long time. It was in 
1970 that a Mr. Bob Colbert of Kansas was in Louisiana, building, in 
fact, or helping in the construction of an ANFO plant. An ANFO plant is 
a plant that takes industrial grade ammonium nitrate and converts it 
into blasting material.
  He was in the State on behalf of his company, and my father and uncle 
were doing electrical work for him in the construction of that 
facility. I came to know him. As a young practicing attorney in the 
State then many [[Page H5372]] years ago, he requested and I performed 
for him an incorporation of a company known as DEFGAN for desensitizing 
fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate.
  The company was incorporated, in fact, to own and to market the Sam 
Porter process that was patented in the patent I just described to you.
  As a result of that incorporation, Mr. Colbert and Mr. Porter and 
their colleagues tried in Louisiana and Wisconsin and other places to 
interest the fertilizer industry in using that process. They did so 
because they were concerned, as we should all be concerned, with the 
ease in which ammonium nitrate fertilizer in large quantities available 
very cheaply on the marketplace can and has been converted into bomb 
material used in terrorist acts and the ease in which in fact under 
some improper storage conditions ammonium nitrate can cause a great 
accident and damage to people and property.
  In 1947, for example, a shipload of ammonium nitrate fertilizer being 
loaded aboard a ship in Texas City exploded accidentally, killing over 
500 people and I believe injuring as many as 3,000 people as it almost 
devastated the entire community.
  Similar accidents in Europe, leading to the deaths of not hundreds 
but thousands of people, have led many European countries to require 
that ammonium nitrate fertilizer be desensitized with certain additives 
before it is put on the marketplace.
  The Sam Porter process is simple, the simple addition of about 5- to 
10-percent diammonium phosphate, which is another fertilizer, the 
simple addition of that fertilizer to ammonium nitrate fertilizer in 
the manufacturing process. When the stuff is trilled down in granular 
form, it creates a single fertilizer process and product with the 
integrated crystaline structure that is not easily separated, we are 
told, may not be easily separated, we are led to believe, and may, in 
fact, produce a process for making sure that ammonium nitrate 
fertilizer, sold commonly in feed stores and garden stores across 
America, cannot be turned by a terrorist into bomb or blasting 
material.
  Now, how much of this ammonium nitrate fertilizer is on the 
marketplace today? We are told that in
 1993, 2.2 million tons, that is 4.4 billion pounds, of ammonium 
nitrate fertilizer grade product was sold commonly in America, across 
the counter in fertilizer, farm, and garden stores. The bomb material 
used in Oklahoma City lightly comprised about 5,000 pounds out of this 
4.4 billion pounds that is sold and marketed in our country.

  That does not include another several million tons of industrial 
grade ammonium nitrate that is produced and is unregulated by any 
Federal agency until it is converted into ANFO for blasting material 
purposes.
  What a huge volume of ammonium nitrate is manufactured and sold in 
America, unregulated, not desensitized as it is in other foreign 
countries and available for terrorists or anyone to turn into a bomb. I 
do not have to remind Americans that today the Internet is filled with 
kitchen formulas for turning that material into bombs, that in Ohio 
today on the AP wire two children were, in fact, suspended for 3 days 
for carrying to school formulas for changing this ammonium nitrate 
fertilizer into a bomb. The material is widely distributed today, 
widely understood and known today. The material is easily available and 
easily converted into a bomb.
  So we had this hearing today. We had Mr. Sam Porter there. We had Mr. 
Colbert there. They told the story how in the late 1960's they tried to 
encourage one chemical company after another to get interested in this 
process only to be turned down at every turn. They told a story how in 
1970, I was able to get a bill introduced in the State legislature by a 
Senator friend of mine who is now deceased, Senator Harvey Belchate, 
Jr. How that bill was easily defeated in the State senate in Louisiana. 
How a similar bill introduced in Wisconsin had a hearing but was also 
easily defeated by the chemical lobby who had decided to spend whatever 
it took to make sure that they were never required to use this process.
  Let me tell you what we learned today in the hearing. We learned, 
one, Mr. Porter's patent has to be studied further and that it deserves 
additional study. We learned from the Office of Technology Assessment 
that a study lasting no more than 3 to 4 weeks could determine for us 
whether or not this process was, in fact, as good as it appears to be 
and whether or not, in fact, the process could be easily reversed. Mr. 
Porter tells us he thinks it cannot be easily reversed. We need to 
study it to find out.
  We do know that Mr. Porter conducted enough research to obtain a 
patent. We do know that Atlas Chemical produced several tons of his 
product and did some tests that confirmed Mr. Porter's primary claims 
that his process desensitized ammonium nitrate fertilizer so that it 
could not be made into a bomb.
  We do know that all of the witnesses testifying today, all of them, 
including Mr. Porter, Mr. Colbert, representatives of the ATF, and the 
OTA, as well as the fertilizer institute, which communicated with us 
via letter, have all indicated support for more study on the Porter 
process as required, by the way, in the President's domestic anti-
terrorism bill, H.R. 1635, which has been filed in this House.
  Statistics indicate to us, we have also found out, that the number of 
fertilizer bombs used in the United States has been relatively small, 
but the numbers are increasing, as many as 27 in the last 6 years, and 
that the Oklahoma City bombing where ammonium nitrate fertilizer was 
probably used was the most extensive use of that material in a bombing.
  We were also told that the size of that bomb could easily be doubled 
and tripled and multiplied with exponential results as easily as that 
bomb was likely produced.
  We do know that it is easy to obtain information on how to make these 
bombs and that in other European countries, particularly Spain and 
Northern Ireland, homemade fertilizer bombs are the preferred option 
for terrorists. According to OTA's testimony, studying Mr. Porter's 
product is important for no other reason than it may hold some promise 
for decreasing the possibility of accidental detonations of large 
stores of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and industrial grade ammonium 
nitrate.
  Large amounts, indeed, are being sold in America as we speak. Large 
amounts are out there in storage in America as we speak. We were told 
that it would take as much as 10 years to get rid of the shelf life of 
all the ammonium nitrate fertilizer that is currently available in 
nondesensitized form.
  There are economic and technical issues about Mr. Porter's product 
that deserve study today. Certainly the cost of manufacturing the 
product is important. We were told today that the cost of ammonium 
nitrate fertilizer is about $180 a ton; the cost of diammonium 
phosphate is in the range, we think, of about $250 a ton. The addition 
of 5- to 10-percent diammonium phosphate to the ammonium nitrate 
fertilizer would not likely increase the cost of the product 
desensitized by more than about 2 or 3 percent.
  Is that extra cost worth the margin of safety? Is that extra cost 
worth having a product that cannot easily be turned into a terrorist 
bomb? I suggest to you we ought to know those answers.
  We need to know if there are any agricultural or agronomic reasons 
why Mr. Porter's product would not work. He has told us and others have 
confirmed to us that the addition of diammonium phosphate to the 
ammonium nitrate fertilizer may product a better product, not, indeed, 
a product in any way less important as the fertilizer to America's 
farmers.
  Finally, there are other technical issues that deserve serious 
analysis, such as whether the process can be reversed chemically and if 
so, how easily it could be reversed and whether the effectiveness of 
the Porter process can be circumvented by simply coming up with one of 
these reversal processes.
  We know there is no silver bullet for preventing terrorist attacks in 
America, but we also know that there is something fundamentally wrong 
about closing off Pennsylvania Avenue, about going into a bunker 
mentality here in America. How many more streets will we have to close 
up? How many more public buildings will we turn into virtual bunkers 
because of this product [[Page H5373]] out there that is so easily 
converted into a major bomb?
  How far do we go out of fear into this bunker mentality? How will 
Americans, in fact, resist this temptation to be held hostage to that 
kind of fear? We suggest that America will not be hostage to that fear, 
that solutions such as the Porter process may, in fact, be available, 
may have been available for 27 years and certainly cannot be ignored 
today.
  Even if Mr. Porter's process is completely effective, as he intended, 
we know that ammonium nitrate can be chemically produced relatively 
easily instead of purchased. There are many other ways to make an 
explosive, other than using fertilizer in our country. In fact, 
according to ATF statistics, most criminal explosives in the United 
States involve something other than fertilizer and there would need to 
be effective compliance by fertilizer manufacturers worldwide if we are 
going to get control of this problem.
  So I do not want to leave the impression that
   ammonium nitrate fertilizer is in and of itself a present and clear 
danger to the public. It can safely be used and stored; in fact, it is. 
The bottom line is that experts have concluded that it should be 
relatively easy to look at the technical and economic issues regarding 
Mr. Porter's patent developed and issued in 1968 and that it is highly 
desirable for us to conduct those studies not in the near future but in 
the very near future.

                              {time}  1615

  In light of the commonly available information on fertilizer, its low 
cost, the commonly available information on how this common fertilizer 
can be converted into this huge bomb material, as well as the tragic 
incidents we have seen, when, in fact, someone has become so insane as 
to do what we saw in Oklahoma City, it would be irresponsible for us to 
fail to follow up on the work Mr. Porter conducted 30 years ago.
  Thirty years ago, 28 years ago, 25 years ago, this Nation and the 
fertilizer industry were asked to take this issue seriously. Today, can 
we fail, after having seen what happened in Oklahoma City, after having 
seen how easy it is for that to happen again anywhere in America, if 
someone is insane enough to conduct that kind of terrorist attack upon 
public or private buildings, can we not take it seriously today? Do not 
Mr. Porter and Mr. Colbert deserve our attention to that issue today?
  Mr. Porter appeared today after his patent has long expired, after he 
has no financial interest whatsoever in this process, he appeared today 
to urge us to take it seriously.
  Mr. Colbert came from Kansas City on his own nickel to fly to 
Washington, DC, without a financial interest left in this issue, to 
come and tell us to take it seriously. Can we not heed their advice? 
Can we not heed, I am sure, the message of Oklahoma City and take 
seriously what may be one of the answers, not all of the answers, to 
making this country a little more safe, to ending some of this fear 
which causes us to close down avenues like Pennsylvania, and to shut 
ourselves up into some kind of bunker mentality?
  Mr. Speaker, I urge those within near reach of this special order to 
encourage this Congress, to encourage all who have something to say 
about what may be done in the next several weeks or months, to study 
this issue to make sure that it is not ignored in 1995 the way it was 
ignored in the late 1960's, the way it was ignored in 1970 and later on 
in Wisconsin when lawmakers had a chance then to visit this issue 
seriously and do something about the problem.

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