Friday, December 26, 2008

Chemical Facility Security Legislation

We are little more than a week away from the convening of the 111th Congress. With the CFATS authorization expiring this year there is going to be a lot of legislative attention focused on chemical facility security. We have been hearing from a number of advocacy groups about their push for increased authority for DHS in this area (see: “The Buzz Continues about Chemical Security 101”). Now the American Chemistry Council weighs in on matter in an interview on EENews.Net. Marty Durbin Interview The interview transcript on this site comes from an interview that Marty Durbin, a VP for the American Chemistry Council did on the ‘On Point’ interview show distributed by Environment & Energy Publishing. The transcript on the web page contains a link to the video of the interview as well. The interviewer, Monica Trauzzi, tosses a couple of easy questions at Mr. Durbin to get the ACC point of view about the upcoming legislative calendar and what the ACC looks for from Congress on chemical facility security. This is certainly not a hard hitting investigative interview, but it does provide some insight into what ACC is looking at in the coming session. HR 5577 The comments made by Mr. Durbin make it sound like the ACC had been supportive of the efforts to get HR 5577 passed in the 110th Congress. Actually, the ACC has been supportive of extending the current CFATS program. In so far as HR 5577 did specifically do that, ACC can claim support for the legislation. They had previously expressed concerns about some of the other components of HR 5577, specifically the IST provisions and the wording of the Federal Pre-emption provisions. In this interview Mr. Durbin does not specifically address those concerns. Chemical Security 101 Ms. Trauzzi does set up a slow-pitch softball question about the recently released Center for American Progress report on inherently safer technology. The ACC response is surprisingly collegial, offering the observation that the “Center for American Progress has done some good work and clearly we share the objective they have in making sure that all the critical infrastructure is adequately protected against threats of terrorism”. The hardest slam after that is that “it may be an oversimplification” and even that is softened by the comment that there are “a lot of different pieces to the puzzle and you've got to use all the tools in the toolbox”. It appears that IST is no longer the political bogey man, but rather a political reality that will have to be dealt with. The Writing on the Wall From this interview it seems clear that the ACC is clear that the upcoming Congress is not going to take the easy way out and pass a simple extension of the current CFATS program like HR 5533. With that option apparently closed, the ACC is looking for the next best thing; making CFATS permanent with some relatively minor changes. While they will probably fight to get some wording changes to the IST provisions and perhaps some modifications to the worker representation clauses, it does not appear that the ACC will make a serious move to stop a bill similar to HR 5577 from passing early in the 111th Congress. I think what they are much more concerned with is that there will be a major re-write of the whole chemical facility security plan. If CFATS expires a new proposal would probably not include the risk-based performance-standards that are the key part of CFATS enforcement. If Congress starts getting involved in writing specific requirements for security programs, it could start to get really expensive for the chemical industry.

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