Sunday, June 23, 2013

Congressional Hearings – Week of 6-23-13

Three spending bills are on the hearing agenda this week as we get ever closer to the ‘Summer Recess’ in August. Railroad policy and the West Fertilizer Explosion also make the list of hearings that might be of interest to the chemical safety/security and the cybersecurity communities this coming week.

Spending Bills

The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing to look at rules for three separate bills on Tuesday evening. One of the bills will be HR 2410, the Agriculture and related agencies spending bill. The draft of this bill was released last week and I did not see any specific chemical safety or chemical transportation issues addressed. After the failure of HR 1947 last week, I expect that we might see the Ag chemical security amendment being offered for this bill.

Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be dealing with the final markup of their separate versions of the Transportation spending bill. The House full Committee hearing will be on Wednesday and the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee will hold their markup on Tuesday and the Senate full Committee hearing will be on Thursday. As I reported last week the House subcommittee draft did not contain chemical safety or security measures. I haven’t seen a draft of the Senate bill yet.

Rail Policy
On Thursday the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on “National Rail Policy: Examining Goals, Objectives, and Responsibilities”. There is a possibility that chemical transportation issues might be addressed particularly toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) chemicals.

The witness list includes:

• Joseph Szabo, Federal Railroad Administration:
• Michael P. Melaniphy, American Public Transportation Association
• Edward Hamberger, Association of American Railroads
• Mike Lewis, American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials
• John P. Tolman, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen

West Fertilizer Explosion

On Thursday the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold the long promised hearing on the West Fertilizer Explosion. The purpose of the hearing will be muddied somewhat since the hearing will actually look at the “Events Up to the Explosions in West, TX and Geismar, LA”. It is disappointing that the Geismar explosion, at a regulated facility, is going to be combined with the explosion at West, at an unregulated (or at the very least under-regulated) facility.

No witness list is yet available, but I suspect that the major focus of this hearing will now be inherently safer technology (IST). That is unfortunate because it doesn’t appear that either facility would have been affected by such a measure.

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