Friday, October 2, 2009

HR 2868 and HR 3258 Hearing

Yesterday the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee held their first hearing on HR 2868 and HR 3258. I was able to watch only about the first hour of the hearing and have not yet had a chance to read the lengthy written statements by the various witnesses. This means that it will probably be Monday before I can provide a detailed report on this important hearing, but here is a first look at some of the important things that were actually said in the hearing. Decrease in Number of Covered Facilities Rand Beers, Undersecretary NPPD DHS, noted that there were now only about 6,200 ‘tiered facilities’ covered by CFATS. This number is down form an original 7,000 facilities. The reduction is due to a combination of facility closings and changes in COI levels at the facility. CFATS regulations provide for re-submission of Top Screens when a facility has a ‘material change’ in their inventories or operations that might change their tier ranking or coverage under CFATS. It would certainly be interesting to see the details of the changing CFATS landscape. For example I would love to see the number of facilities that dropped out of the top two tiers because of COI inventory changes, if the number is significant it would be a supportive of those that claim that mandated IST implementation is unnecessary. Water Sector Both Beers and Peter Silva, Assistant Administrator EPA Water Office, voiced the Administration’s position that both water treatment and waste water treatment facilities should be covered by the same security regulations. Beers noted that a single entity usually owns both types facilities in most cities. EPA and DHS both favour having the EPA as the action agency for water sector chemical security. They do want to see the EPA use the CSAT tools for submission of screening information (Top Screen and SVA?) with the EPA (and states) having sole inspection/approval authority for security plans. IST Provisions The Administration’s position on IST has apparently changed since Beer’s testified before the Homeland Security Committee in June. Beers said that DHS favors IST assessments to be included as part of security plans for all facilities. DHS will work with Congress on mandated IST implementation requirements, but prefer to see any such plan implementation to be staggered to make enforcement easier. DHS would prefer to see a common IST policy for all types of facilities. Miscellaneous Responding to a question, Beers stated that the Administration does not intend to request another one year CFATS extension in next years DHS Budget. This gives some support to completing work on HR 2868 and HR 3258 this year; this takes away some of the Republican arguments against proceeding with HR 2868. Sue Armstrong, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary DHS IP, noted that ISCD plans on starting CFATS inspections in December. Tier I SSPs were due to be completed last month; the delay in inspections is due to the review process for the SSPs. She also explained that DHS was still working on the internal reviews of some Tier 4 SVAs submitted last year; higher risk tiers were obviously given priority. Responding to a question about the current Top Screen filing extension given to agricultural producers, Beers noted that DHS would soon be requiring producers and agricultural chemical distributors to supply some information to DHS to allow final formulation of an agriculture Top Screen. As I noted earlier there was lengthy written testimony provided by all of the witnesses. It will take some time to wade through it. There are rumours running around that Chairman Waxman intends to finish the mark-up of HR 2868 and HR 3258 by the end of the month. This would still extend past the recently extended deadline for completion of Committee work on HR 2868. On Wednesday the Speaker extended the deadline for both the Judiciary and the Energy and Commerce Committees to finish work on the bill until October 23rd. That date does not provide much time for votes before the planned adjournment date of October 30th (though that date may certainly slip).

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