NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sen. Charles Schumer said on Sunday he would introduce legislation requiring major utility plants to run background checks on employees to help prevent security threats against power facilities.

Citing a recent U.S. Department of Homeland Security report that found insider sabotage at electric, gas, and water utilities was a significant threat to U.S. national security, Schumer said al Qaeda was known to be recruiting extremists to infiltrate and work in sensitive areas such as utilities.

"Power plants and utilities present a tempting and potentially catastrophic target to extremists who are bent on wreaking havoc on the United States," Schumer said.

"Thorough background checks on all workers with access to the most sensitive areas of these operations are a must," he said, calling the DHS report "a wake-up call that we must ensure those with access to our most critical infrastructure -- and our power supplies -- are not compromised by extremist influences."

Currently only nuclear power plants are required to conduct FBI background checks on employees with unescorted access to facilities.

The New York Democrat said he would introduce legislation making it mandatory for all major utilities and critical infrastructure plants to run FBI background checks on workers with access to sensitive areas within utilities, when Congress reconvenes next month.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)

Source: Reuters US Online Report Domestic News