Chemical Facility Security and the House’s Misguided Bill

The Washington Times today editorially examines House passage of H.R. 2868, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act, a seriously flawed piece of legislation that will raise costs for manufacturers and discourage creation of private-sector jobs.

The editorial, “Chemical insecurity,” argues that having the government, in this case the Department of Homeland Security, impose the substitution of chemicals under the theory of “inherently safer technologies” actually works against safety.

The forced switching of chemicals could result in companies having to replace products they have long used without incident with new chemicals and processes. There is wide agreement among corporate safety executives and outside experts that inexperience is one of the major causes of accidents.

Ill-considered mandates could slow the manufacture of products used throughout the economy, from fertilizer to pharmaceuticals, potentially creating shortages of some goods and even lost jobs when some products cannot be produced because key ingredients are outlawed.

The Times also notes the inclusion of provisions allowing private lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security over its regulation of chemical manufacturing facilities, noting the similarities to the Endangered Species Act, in which lawsuits can stop projects and turn the federal government into a land-use planning agency. We ask: Jobs?

We wrote about the third-party lawsuit provisions at Point of Law, noting the defeat of an amendment by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) to remove the language. McCaul said:

Allowing any third party–anybody– to sue the Secretary is both reckless and unnecessary. This provision would be a boon to trial lawyers and to environmentalists at the expense of the Department of Homeland Security and national security interests. Citizen suits have no place in a national security context, and this would be the very first time that Congress would be authorizing such suits in the homeland security arena.

 

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