Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SOCMA Takes on IST

I have noted in a couple of recent blogs that the American Chemistry Council (ACC) seems to be reluctant to directly attack potential requirements for inherently safer technology (IST) in up coming legislation on securing high-risk chemical facilities. According to a recent Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA) press release SOCMA does not share that reluctance. In discussing what SOCMA would like to see in the way of chemical legislation in the 111th Congress SOCMA’s apparent first priority will be the moving of the current CFATS program to permanent status “without product substitution requirements under the guise of inherently safer technology (IST)”. The press release goes on to say:
“‘The American chemical manufacturing industry practices the fundamental principles of IST every day,’ said Joe Acker, President of SOCMA. ‘It is inappropriate for Washington bureaucrats to be given authority over which chemicals to substitute for security purposes. It will also likely create dangerous unintended consequences.’”
This will put SOCMA on a collision course with the House Homeland Security Committee that included a moderate IST requirement in its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act (CFATA) of 2008 (HR 5577) last year. That legislation will probably be the forerunner of any legislation that will make it to the floor of the House early in 2009. It is unlikely that SOCMA has the political power to get Chairman Thompson to pull an IST requirement from any chemical facility security bill that will pass through his committee. Nor does it seem likely that Chairman Waxman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will have the desire to bury chemical security legislation like his predecessor did this year. Even Rep Green from Houston, TX (a chemical facility rich district if there ever was one), chair of the important Environment and Hazardous Materials subcommittee seems to be on the CFATA band wagon after Chairman Dingell was removed as the committee chair (see: “Waxman v. Dingell Aftermath”). No, I think that the ACC tactic will allow them to successfully urge some minor modifications to the IST provisions of the current language in HR 5577. Directly attacking IST will not be successful in the current political climate in Congress. The IST proponents have done too good job in defining the discussion in the minds of the public. Some form of IST will almost certainly be included in any chemical facility security legislation that makes it to a vote.

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