Thursday, July 24, 2008

HR5577 Lobbying Effort

Greenpeace is running a grassroots lobbying effort to get HR 5577 (Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008) passed. Their 'Action Center’ has a brief blurb touting the IST provisions of the bill and a form letter that will be emailed to the appropriate congressional delegation if you fill out the data collection information.


Greenpeace IST Claims Misleading


While I personally think that the passage of HR 5577 would probably be a good thing for the industry and the country, I think that the Greenpeace effort is misleading. Their claims that the inherently safer technology (IST) provisions of the bill would “ensure the use of safer, cost-effective technologies to reduce the terrible consequences of a terrorist attack at a chemical plant” are blatant nonsense.


HR 5577 mandates the evaluation of inherently safer technology, but it only authorizes the Secretary to require implementation if the facility finds that there is an IST process that is practicable (see: “Inherently Safer Technology Implementation under HR 5577”).


Greenpeace IST Claims Counterproductive


This campaign by Greenpeace is a continuation of the polarization politics that is crippling government in this country. By pushing this gross over simplification of the provisions of the bill Greenpeace is providing ammunition for many people that oppose this bill for various reasons. Industry will always, and rightfully so in my opinion, vociferously oppose the imposition of mandatory IST implementation requirements.


I understand that Greenpeace is in favor of the implementation of IST. Anyone with a modicum of sense would agree that using safer chemicals and processes can provide a significant reduction in the risks from terrorist attacks and process accidents. But, by implying that this bill would require implementation of a magic bullet IST in every case is misleading proponents and opponents of the rational IST implementation.


Rational IST Implementation


The provisions of HR 5577 that require the IST review be conducted as part of the security process ensures that facilities will be actively reviewing safer alternatives at the same time they are looking at the increased costs of security. This will allow for the realistic comparison of the benefits of IST and the costs of security. If there is a realistic IST alternative available, this is the best way to ensure that companies see that it is in their best interest to implement that program.


Moving HR 5577 Forward


I applaud the intentions of Greenpeace to move the legislative process forward on HR 5577. I believe that their method needs to be modified. The House leadership is not moving this bill forward (see: “Update HR 5577 07-11-08”) and it does not appear that this bill will ever come to a vote. Instead of an email campaign to get votes lined up for the bill, there should be a campaign to get the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to take up the bill in a serious manner and move it to the floor for a vote.

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