Chemical Plant Security Bill Will Cost Jobs, Not Improve Security

By November 6, 2009Economy, Regulations

The House of Representatives today continues floor debate on H.R. 2868, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act, which makes sweeping changes to the Department of Homeland Security’s regulations over management of U.S. chemical manufacturing facilities.

The National Association of Manufacturers sent a letter to House members earlier this week opposing the legislation if it includes provisions mandating “inherently safer technologies,” or IST. This euphonious requirement imposes huge costs and reorganizing of manufacturing processes with no clear benefit in safety or security.

It’s also a disruptive reworking of safety measures already begun under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security.

From the letter:

While H.R. 2868 reflects some of the important security measures that will continue to be implemented under CFATS, manufacturers oppose the approval of any IST language that would give the Department of Homeland Security authority to mandate manufacturing processes or substance changes without any regard for security improvements, practicality, availability or cost. The numerous improvements that manufacturers have made render this language unnecessary. Such changes would be devastating to the chemical industry, the impact of which would be felt by their customers, including thousands of small and medium manufacturers that use chemicals in their production processes or those that rely on goods manufactured with chemicals.

The paper industry estimates that converting a single facility to a new bleaching process to comply with IST could cost up to $200 million and increase energy demand by 32,000MWh/year. Additionally, the refining industry has determined that a mandate to switch from hydrofluoric acid to sulfuric acid, which can be just as dangerous in a terrorist scenario and requires roughly 250 times more acid to achieve the same results, would cost between $45 and $150 million per refinery with an increase in operating costs between 200 and 400 percent. This devastating impact could also be felt by families, as their energy costs will inevitably rise.

Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) cited the NAM’s objections in his floor remarks Thursday, and we thank him.

The NAM also joined many other trade associations in a letter in October detailing the many problems with the bill.

Today’s debate will include action on a number of amendments that could improve the bill. (See Majority Leader’s floor schedule.) The overriding question that House members should be asking themselves on all today’s votes is why they would support legislation that will add costs, drive industry overseas, and destroy jobs.

The unemployment rate was announced today at 10.2 percent.

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