Friday, August 8, 2008

Groups Press Sen. Collins on HR 5577

A long time reader, Thomas Kay, pointed me at an interesting article in the Bangor Daily News. Google News Alert® pointed me to the same article on The articles describe lobbying efforts by ‘several health and environmental groups’ urging Senator Collins (R-Maine) to support efforts to pass HR 5577, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act (CFATA) of 2008.


As I told Thomas, I think that their efforts could have been better directed. First, Senator Collins (Ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Defense and Government Operations Committee) has a long history of supporting comprehensive chemical facility security legislation. While I have not seen any direct comments by her on this legislation, I’m relatively sure that she would be supporting it in committee and on the floor if it got to the Senate.

HR 5577 Stalled in the House of Representatives

Unfortunately, as I pointed out in an earlier blog on the lobbying efforts in support of this bill by Green Peace (see: “HR5577 Lobbying Effort”), I do not think that Senator Collins will get a chance to support this bill before the new Congress convenes in January. The bill is currently languishing in the do-little House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Speaker Pelosi continues to allow inaction by that committee to hold up consideration of this bill by the House.


The Congress is currently a week into their 5 week ‘summer’ recess. Whenthey get back in September there will be a very short window of opportunity for them to take up serious and complex legislation like CFATA before they recess for the elections. It does not currently look like they will return after the recess unless the Democrats lose control of one or both houses (unlikely to say the least).


DHS Appropriations Bill


I had hoped that Chairman Thompson would see this bill passed in the House and try to get it added to the House version of the DHS Appropriations Bill. He has announced that he will use that tactic on a number of recently passed DHS bills (see: “House Passes HR 4806 and HR 6193”). The House DHS Appropriations Bill seems to have died a still birth. It has not yet been sent to the printers (GPO) even though it was reported out of committee in June.


It now seems more likely that there will be an omnibus spending bill passed before the election. While it is possible that a House passed HR 5577 could be added to that bill, it seems more likely that a less ‘controversial’ CFATS extension like HR 5533 would stand a better chance of making it through that process. That means that serious updating of the chemical facility security process would have to wait for the new Congress.


I do not think that industry would like any chemical facility security legislation that will come out of a Congress with a larger Democratic majority. While industry does not like the federal pre-emption provisions or the IST provisions of HR 5577, they could live with them. A closure-proof senate and a veto-proof House (both real possibilities after this election) will provide little incentive for bargaining away stricter, more onerous provisions in either area.


Bring HR 5577 to the Floor


I do hope that Green Peace, et al, is successful in bringing HR 5577 to a successful vote in both the House and the Senate this fall. I have said on many occasions that I think this is a good bill for both industry and their local community neighbors. Unfortunately, I think that the hard work that the House Homeland Security Committee put into this bill has been shelved by Speaker Pelosi and it will die in committee.

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