A final decision on whether to issue tougher chemical security and safety rules likely will not be made until at least 2016 — three years after the tragic explosion of a fertilizer plant in Texas, a federal working group says.
The interagency panel, which is acting under an executive order President Obama issued after the April 2013 disaster killed 14 people and leveled homes in the small city of West, issued its final report to the president on Friday.
The report says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will issue a formal “request for information” this summer, at which point stakeholders will be able to propose recommendations on how to improve the agency’s Risk Management Program.
The agency would then propose any potential changes to the program next year, according to the report. The document leaves open the possibility that final decisions will not be made until after Obama leaves office. There is “intent to finalize such amendments in 2016, subject to any timing adjustments that may be necessitated by new information,” the report says.
So far, the agency is considering whether reactive and explosive chemicals — such as those that were to blame for the Texas accident — should be added to the list of substances regulated by the program. The agency, along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, could also require companies to conduct risk analyses aimed at determining whether they should switch to using safer technologies or substances at their chemical facilities, the report says.
“EPA or OSHA would not, however, determine specific technology, design, or process selection by chemical facility owners or operators,” the group adds.
The statement could hint at a potential compromise between a coalition of labor and environmental groups, who have long called for the federal government to issue rules requiring companies to switch to safer technologies, and industry groups, who have lobbied against the idea.
House Democrats recently attempted to insert a risk-assessment requirement similar to the one suggested by the interagency report into a bill that would extend the life of the Homeland Security Department’s chemical security program. The Republican majority rejected the amendment, however.
Indeed, in a statement Friday, the American Chemistry Council expressed concerns about the prospect of such a requirement. The industry group said it “could have the potential for creating an unnecessary layer of duplicative requirements that would only serve to create confusion for the regulated community and stretch agency resources.”
The Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, meanwhile, expressed cautious optimism toward the report’s recommendations.
“It’s clear that the [interagency group] listened to the voices of the communities and workers most at risk of chemical disasters,” said Richard Moore, co-coordinator of the activist group. “There are recommendations in their report that can help prevent disasters if they are enacted. “¦ The administration now has to turn those words into “¦ regulations that are adopted within the next 18 months.”
Last month, Moore’s group released an analysis asserting that communities hosting chemical facilities “are disproportionately African American or Latino, have higher rates of poverty than the United States as a whole and have lower housing values, incomes and education levels than the national average.”
In addition the possible changes to EPA and OSHA rules, the Homeland Security Department is considering changes to its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. In recent months the department has been looking at the possibility of adding additional chemicals to the list of those regulated by the program, according to the interagency group’s report. The department will propose these and other potential changes in a preliminary rulemaking notice, the report says, but it does not specify when this would happen.
The report also recommends that Congress take several actions it says would improve the DHS program, including streamlining the “multi-step enforcement process” the department must follow before it can fine or shut down a facility.
“It is important that, in extreme circumstances, DHS has the ability to immediately issue orders to assess civil penalties or to close down a facility for violations, without having to first issue an order calling for correction of the violation,” the report says.
Congress should also remove an exemption that prevents water treatment facilities from being regulated by the DHS program, the report says.
“Many water and wastewater treatment facilities may present attractive terrorist targets due to their large stores of potentially high-risk chemicals and their proximities to population centers,” according to the report.
Industry groups have long favored the exemption, but House Republicans in April did allow an amendment to the CFATS reauthorization bill that calls for a third-party study that would assess whether the clause creates a security gap.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”