Monday, April 14, 2008

HR5577 Update 04-14-08

The progress of HR 5577, the Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2008, has been delayed again in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. They were again granted an extension for their review of the legislation; this time until May 30th. It is looking less and less like this will make it through this election-year-shortened congressional session.

Samuel Loewenberg, in a commentary earlier this year, pointed out that there was a great deal of opposition to both the IST provisions and the wording of the federal preemption provisions in the Commerce Committee. While that opposition is mainly from the Republicans on the committee it looks like a deliberate move on the part of the committee leadership to stall consideration of this bill.

One possible reason may be that the leadership realizes that a narrowly divided Senate could be a very large obstacle to the passage of this bill. They may be hoping that a reduction in the number of Republican held Senate seats this fall could make it easier to pass this bill in 2009. That would also make it difficult for DHS to keep the chemical facility security work flowing relatively smoothly since their authorization to regulate chemical facility security currently runs out in October 2009.

If this legislation does not clear the House before the summer recess, I think that Chairman Thompson is going to have to seriously look at trying to get a one year extension on the current Section 550 authorization attached to some relatively safe homeland security legislation during this Congress. That appears to be the only way to keep DHS in the chemical security business for the foreseeable future.

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