Security, Safety and Efficiency for Chemical Facilities

The Senate Homeland Security Committee demonstrated concern for the economy, jobs and domestic security this week when it unanimously approved H.R. 2868, the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Act, with an amendment by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that allows the current federal security efforts to become fully effective. Rather than disrupting the ongoing implementation of effective security measures as the House-passed bill would, the Senate measure extends the current anti-terrorism security program for three years.

The bill now reflects Collins’ S. 2996, the Continuing Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Security Act. The Senator’s office issued a news release, “Homeland Security Committee Unanimously Approves Senator Collins’ Bill to Extend Chemical Facility Security Law“:

“Chemical facilities are tempting targets for terrorists,” said Senator Collins. “The Department of Homeland Security has done a remarkable job developing a comprehensive chemical security program, creating the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. Although it is not even four years old, it has yielded a successful collaborative, risk-based security framework – providing a model for other security-related programs.

“While the Department has strong authority under the law to shut down non-compliant facilities, the key to this risk-based approach is that it makes the owners and operators of chemical plants partners with the government. The roles under the law are clear: the federal government sets requirements but recognizes that owners and operators of facilities are in the best position to design appropriate security measures to meet those requirements for their facilities.”

Her news release includes statements from Sens. George Voinovich (R-OH), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) endorsing the approach.

The Collins substitute is not a simple reauthorization, adding some voluntary programs and intended improvements. Thankfully, the Senate version does drop the House’s most costly and counterproductive provision, the Inherently Safer Technology (IST) requirement that would impose constantly moving standards on chemical manufacturers, inviting endless litigation and undermining U.S. competitiveness. The National Association of Manufacturers joined in a multi-association letter opposing that requirement.

Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (D-CT) issued a news release anticipating Senate floor amendments. Hope not. As Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council said in a release, “This was a vote of confidence in existing chemical security regulations that address the need to protect chemical facilities and their ability to provide products and jobs critical to our nation’s economy.”

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