Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lautenberg Introduces CFATS Legislation

Accompanied by a major public relations push from Greenpeace and a variety of environmental and labor organizations, Sen. Lautenberg’s (D, NJ) office announced that the Senator introduced two bills to regulate the security of chemicals, one for chemicals at water and waste water treatment plants and one for other high-risk chemical facilities. Bill numbers will not be available for these two bills until the Congressional Record is published tomorrow (if these bills were actually introduced today, a one or two day delay in the actual introduction is not unheard of in these situations). Official copies of the introduced legislation probably won’t be available until next week. Copies of the two bills provided by the Senator’s office should be essentially identical to the official copies of the legislation. The Secure Water Facilities Act (SWFA) appears to be essentially the same as Title II and Title III of HR 2868. The Secure Chemical Facilities Act (SCFA) appears to be at least similar to Title I of HR 2868; there are differences of construction that make it difficult to tell by a cursory inspection. Separate Consideration I would assume that the separation in to two separate pieces of legislation was done to make it easier to pass the water facilities legislation if the resistance to HR 2868 was too great to get Senate action this year. While there has been some opposition to the water facility security provisions of HR 2868, the IST provisions were watered down enough to prevent the same type opposition seen by the chemical industry. Until I can see the Congressional Record for today’s proceedings I won’t be able to tell for sure what the committee assignments are for the two pieces of legislation. I would suspect that the SWFA will not be assigned to the Homeland Security Committee. Since it is essentially an EPA bill (the responsible agency) the legislation would most likely be assigned to Sen. Boxer’s (D, CA) Environment and Public Works Committee as they have jurisdiction over the Safe Drinking Water Act. The SCFA would almost certainly be assigned to the Homeland Security Committee. It will take some time to review the wording of both pieces of legislation to see what differences there are between these bills and the provisions of HR 2868. The Lautenberg press release only says that HR 2868 is similar legislation. This late in the process it certainly cannot be considered to be a companion bill. SWFA Could Pass I don’t think that this will make a significant difference in how CFATS legislation will be considered in the Senate. The separation into two bills could provide for possible consideration of the SWFA, but I find it hard to believe that even this bill would make it through the legislative process this session. The SWFA would almost certainly be approved by the House if it gets that far.

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