Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Good Intentions – A Reply
There is an interesting blog opposing HR 2868 over on Gaussling.wordpress.com. It is clear that Gaussling is opposed to HR 2868. What is less clear is if Gaussling is aware of how much of what he is against is already the law; the law that the chemical industry supports. Gaussling writes: “Nobody wants acts of terrorism to happen and especially not on the site of a chemical plant. But to legislate the transformation of chemical plants into a “Fort Apache” scenario in the absence of a history of attacks on US plants is to invite needless cost and complication to an industry that is already heavily regulated.” The lack of attacks on chemical plants is a matter of some comfort, but hardly a cause for complacency. Were a chemical plant to be attacked tomorrow the public would not accept the excuse that a lack of prior attacks justified not protecting obvious targets. They would rightfully demand that heads should role; that industry and the politicians should pay for their ineptitude and lack of foresight. Congress and Industry have already acted Actually, Congress did legislate chemical plant security back in 2006. The chemical industry is well into their implementation of those rules; rules which every major chemical industry organization praises. A year and a half ago, the Secretary of DHS identified slightly more than 300 chemicals as being chemicals of concern, based on the potential threat the placed on the communities surrounding these chemical plants. Most were the reactive chemicals that Gaussling warns against regulating, and many are also commodity type chemicals that are widespread throughout the economy. The regulations have not stopped, not significantly reduced their use. Background checks are already required for the industry and have been in place for years for those sectors of the industry located at the nation’ ports. Furthermore, many facilities were already doing most of these checks long before they were required by the legislation. It just makes sense to know who you are hiring. Finally, the Secretary has had the authority to levy significant fines against non-compliant facilities for a couple of years now. More importantly, he has the authority to require egregiously non-compliant facilities to shut down. Opposition to HR 2686 There are certainly reasonable people that have objections to HR 2868. The provisions allowing citizen suits to enforce the regulations bother a number of people in the industry. Likewise there is some concern about allowing the Secretary to require implementation of inherently safer technology (IST), even though that must be preceded by the facility’s evaluation of the IST and finding that the proposed IST is technically and financially feasible. These are honestly and thoughtfully held positions. Gaussling’s opposition to HR 2868, however, appears to be based on an incomplete understanding of where the chemical facility security process currently is and where this bill is trying to take it. That misunderstanding complicates this blog's contribution to the discussion and detracts from its usefulness.