Sunday, October 18, 2009

CG Authorization Bill

The second authorization bill for an agency of the Department of Homeland Security is moving towards a floor vote in the House. The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 (HR 3619) was reported out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Friday. The House Rules Committee has requested the submission of floor amendments by Wednesday morning in preparation for the Committee’s meeting to formulate the rule for early consideration of the bill. Most of the provisions of this bill are well beyond my area of expertise or interest. There are some provisions that will be of specific interest to the chemical security community. They deal principally with the Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC), but also include a new classification of hazardous materials and some studies to be conducted by DHS. TWIC Provisions Section 1102 requires the Secretary to report to Congress on the results of the current pilot program for the use of TWIC Readers. This section also requires the GAO to review the report being submitted to Congress. While Congress will be waiting on this report the industry will be waiting for the publication of the TWIC Reader proposed rule that is also awaiting completion of this trial. Section 1112 deals with the reported problems of individuals finding a location where they can get their fingerprints taken to use for submitting an application for the TWIC. It will require DHS to establish procedures for allowing these fingerprints to be taken at any DHS operated or contracted facility that already performs fingerprinting of the public. This should ease one of the significant burdens of getting a TWIC application completed. Section 1118 requires the Secretary of DHS to establish biometric identification procedures for issuing TWIC where it is not possible to take or read an individual’s fingerprints. Section 1121 requires the Secretary of DHS to conduct an assessment of current TWIC enrollment sites with a view to keeping them open past September 29th, 2009 (a date which has fairly obviously already passed). Especially Hazardous Materials Section 1117(d) defines a new classification of hazardous materials for special protections under Coast Guard operations, especially hazardous materials (EHM). “The term ‘especially hazardous material’ means anhydrous ammonia, ammonium nitrate, chlorine, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and any other substance identified by the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating as an especially hazardous material.” Section 1117(b) provides a number of limitations on the formulation of future facility security plans for EHM terminals or shore side facilities servicing EHM tankers. These limitations include restrictions on the use of State or local government provided security forces. Miscellaneous Studies Section 1108 requires the Secretary of DHS to prepare a report to Congress “analyzing the threat, vulnerability, and consequence of a terrorist attack on gasoline and chemical cargo shipments in port areas in the United States”. There are no restrictions on the classification of the report, so it will almost certainly contain significant amounts of classified material. Hopefully, DHS will be able to share a sanitized version of this report with the regulated community. Section 1120 requires the Secretary to prepare a report to Congress on the extent of State and local government support for Coast Guard security functions in and around port areas. This will focus in large part on the training requirements for State and local law enforcement officers as compared to the training requirements for Coast Guard personnel performing the same functions. Moving Forward With the Rules Committee requiring the filing of amendments by Wednesday morning it is likely that the Rules Committee hearing on this legislation to take part late Wednesday afternoon or on Thursday. Typically this would mean that this legislation would reach the House Floor the following week.

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