Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Phase II of Campaign for New Chemical Security Legislation

On Monday Greenpeace initiated the second phase of their campaign to influence the legislation that will presumably make the CFATS regulations permanent. They instituted a letter writing campaign to members of Congress advocating support for HR 5577, the bill introduced during the last session of Congress by the Chairman Thompson of the House Homeland Security Committee. Greenpeace was a member of a coalition of special interest groups that collectively sent a letter to each member of the House and Senate last October urging the same thing. Those letters and the current letter writing campaign specifically address the inherently safer technology (IST) provisions of HR 5577 as their main focal point. No Mention of Chemical Security 101 I was disappointed not to see a mention of the Center for American Progress report, Chemical Security 101, in Rick Hind’s article or in the form letter that is provided on the site. I thought that that report did a good job of outlining the IST arguments that the proponents want the public and Congress to consider. Specifically, it brought home to 303 communities across the United States the risks that they faced from a successful terrorist attack on a local facility. Psychologically, it is hard to beat that kind of argument. Timing Issue I have a minor complaint about the timing of this article and the start of the letter writing campaign. Officially, HR 5577 is a dead bill, it no longer exists. While one would expect that members of Congress will know what these letters are talking about, if Greenpeace had waited a couple of days until the new Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act is introduced by Chairman Thompson, some confusion could have been avoided. This will be particularly true if, as I suspect might happen, there are multiple bills introduced in the 111th Congress that address the issue of making the current CFATS program permanent. I would be very surprised if at least one bill wasn’t submitted along the lines of HR 5533 that was proposed during the 110th Congress. That bill had no IST provisions. As I have noted in a number of recent blog postings, it is obvious that both sides of the IST debate figure that this is an issue that will be resolved in one way or another early in the session of Congress. I’ll be watching closely and reporting frequently on the progress of this legislative battle.

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