Industry Urging House to Approve Chemical Security Bill on Tuesday

Search and rescue workers comb through what remains of a 50-unit apartment building (foreground) the day after an explosion at the West Fertilizer Company (background) destroyed the building on April 18, 2013, in West, Texas. The incident, which left damaged buildings for blocks in every direction, has been cited often in the debate over legislation that would extend the life of a controversial Homeland Security Program.
National Journal
Douglas P. Guarino
July 8, 2014, 10:36 a.m.

In­dustry of­fi­cials are ur­ging law­makers to ap­prove a bill that would ex­tend the life of a con­tro­ver­sial chem­ic­al se­cur­ity pro­gram dur­ing a vote on the House floor Tues­day af­ter­noon.

The bill, H.R. 4007, would provide a mul­ti­year au­thor­iz­a­tion to the Chem­ic­al Fa­cil­ity Anti-Ter­ror­ism Stand­ards of the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment. The pro­gram is meant to help en­sure that do­mest­ic in­dus­tri­al fa­cil­it­ies us­ing haz­ard­ous chem­ic­als do not fall vic­tim to ter­ror­ist at­tacks that could be cata­stroph­ic for sur­round­ing com­munit­ies.

Thus far, the pro­gram has been re­newed an­nu­ally through the con­gres­sion­al ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess — a prac­tice that both DHS and in­dustry of­fi­cials com­plain has led to harm­ful un­cer­tainty from year to year.

“A long term au­thor­iz­a­tion out­side of the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess will provide the reg­u­lat­ory con­sist­ency and op­er­a­tion­al sta­bil­ity to en­sure the suc­cess of CFATS, while giv­ing in­dustry con­fid­ence in their long term cap­it­al com­mit­ments to this pro­gram,” Cal Dooley, pres­id­ent of the Amer­ic­an Chem­istry Coun­cil, wrote in a let­ter to House lead­ers today.

“En­sur­ing the fu­ture of this im­port­ant pro­gram will also help DHS re­cruit and re­tain top tal­ent to ef­fect­ively im­ple­ment CFATS,” Dooley’s let­ter, ad­dressed to House Speak­er John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal­if.), states.

The House bill lacks pro­vi­sions that would give DHS of­fi­cials the au­thor­ity to re­quire spe­cif­ic se­cur­ity up­grades at chem­ic­al fa­cil­it­ies. Labor uni­on of­fi­cials, en­vir­on­ment­al­ists and some Demo­crats fa­vor such “in­her­ently safer tech­no­logy” re­quire­ments, but Re­pub­lic­ans and in­dustry of­fi­cials op­pose them.

The le­gis­la­tion also would not end a reg­u­lat­ory ex­emp­tion for wa­ter treat­ment fa­cil­it­ies that some Demo­crats and act­iv­ist groups have cri­ti­cized. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­leased an in­ter­agency re­port last month ur­ging Con­gress to end the ex­emp­tion.

The House bill so far lacks a Sen­ate com­pan­ion, but Sen­at­ors Tom Carp­er (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are work­ing on draft le­gis­la­tion. Carp­er chairs the Sen­ate Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee and Coburn is the pan­el’s top Re­pub­lic­an.

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