- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A House panel approved a bill yesterday to regulate the sale of ammonium-nitrate-based fertilizer, which can be used to make homemade bombs, but final action is still uncertain.

The House Committee on Homeland Security approved H.R. 3197, the Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act, which now must go before the full House. In the Senate, aides to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said similar legislation likely would to be added as an amendment to the chemical plant security bill that the committee is marking up this week.

Concern is growing about the availability of ammonium-nitrate-based fertilizer, which can be mixed with diesel oil to make a powerful homemade explosive such as that used to destroy the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Earlier this month, Canadian authorities arrested 17 Muslims in suburban Toronto, in an operation that Canadian authorities said was directed against a terrorist cell. Those arrested are accused of plotting to buy 3 tons of the fertilizer and researching recipes for making it into explosive, police said.

The House version of the bill directs the Department of Homeland Security to draw up, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, regulations governing the sale of such fertilizer. The rules would ensure that sales be allowed only when buyers show photo ID and give their names, addresses and telephone numbers. Sellers would be required to register with the department and to keep records of all sales for three years.

Sellers would have the right to refuse sales and would be given guidance on best practices, including ways of identifying suspicious activity and how to contact law enforcement. Producers and sellers would be required to report any unexplained loss or theft within 24 hours.

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