Thursday, October 29, 2009

HR 2996 Conference Report

Yesterday the Conferees for HR 2996 completed their revisions of HR 2996 to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate Versions of the Department Of the Interior, Environment, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010. While there were no specific provisions in the bill affecting chemical facility security rules or regulations, there were two provisions of the Conference Report that will be of interest to the chemical security community. IST Study The first provision was included in the section of the legislation pertaining to the Chemical Safety Board. Out of the appropriations for that organization the legislation specifies that “$600,000 shall be for a study by the National Academy of Sciences to examine the use and storage of methyl isocyanate including the feasibility of implementing alternative chemicals or processes and an examination of the cost of alternatives at the Bayer CropScience facility in Institute, West Virginia” (pgs 133-4) This provision was inserted specifically by Sen. Byrd (D, WV) and clearly supported by Sen. Rockefeller (D, WV). Brought about by last year’s fatal accident at the Bayer CropScience facility and this year’s fiasco in the run up to the CSB hearing, this is a direct slap at operations and management at that facility. It is not clear whether this is a security issue or purely a safety issue, but it is clearly an IST assessment similar to those envisioned in HR 2868 and HR 3258. It is not clear how the $600,000 figure was arrived at, or whether it will ultimately be enough to cover the costs of the evaluation done by NAS. It does establish a baseline of sorts for the types of costs that a complex IST evaluation might be expected to incur. Congress needs to take this into account when they continue their consideration of HR 2868 and HR 3258. Continuing Resolution II Division B of this version of HR 2996 is another continuing resolution for the appropriation bills that have yet to wind their way through the House and Senate. The date on this CR is December 18th. That now becomes the effective target date for the first session of the 111th Congress to adjourn. Since the work on the Homeland Security and now the Environmental Protection Agency appropriation bills have been completed the CR will not directly affect chemical security regulation funding. It does provide a glimpse, however, about how much longer legislative work has to get completed in the current session.

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