Saturday, September 11, 2010

CFATS Publicity Heats Up

With Congress slated to come back to Washington this coming week, we are starting to see advocacy groups resuming their various campaigns to encourage Congress to pass comprehensive legislation reauthorizing the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards while including provisions requiring inherently safer technology (IST) assessment and limited IST implementation mandate authority. Thursday I wrote about the latest Greenpeace effort. The same day Kristen Breitweiser, a well known 9/11 widow and activist, had an editorial on the same issue at

I’m not sure why these groups appear to have taken a break in their campaign. Since these groups have attempted to work a grassroots based campaign where they get the public to write their Congressional representatives to support this legislation, I would have thought that they would have hit harder when members were back in their districts during the summer recess. Of course, there may have been more local actions that didn’t make it on the internet. I don’t think that is the case because of their past history of active internet use in their campaigns.

Industry groups have taken a slightly different tack. Both SOCMA and the AWWA recommended to their members early this summer that they invite their congressional representatives to visit their facilities during this recess. This would allow them to show off the security measures in place and to explain the costs of converting their facilities to the alternatives advocated by groups like Greenpeace.

CFATS Legislation Won’t Pass

I don’t think either group will really be successful in their efforts. Industry won’t get a straight permanent authorization of the current law and the advocates will not get any sort of IST mandate. Congress is very unlikely to pass any controversial legislation before Election Day. I believe that the only action that will be taken this fall will be another interim re-authorization of the current CFATS rules. There is an increasing chance that that reauthorization will only take the form of being part of a continuing resolution for the DHS budget since the DHS spending bill is looking like it may not see action in the House in time to pass the bill before the first Tuesday in November.

Water Security Legislation

There is a possible exception to this gloomy political outlook; S 3598, the water facility security legislation introduced by Sen. Lautenberg (D, NJ). If Sen. Boxer’s (D, CA) Committee reports this bill out early enough this month (probably this week would be necessary) there is a remote possibility that this bill might make it through the Senate in time to get it to a House vote before November. It all depends on how much support the AWWA can get in opposition to the legislation.

If the AWWA can convince the chemical industry organizations that oppose IST mandates on chemical facilities to support their opposition to this bill, it will likely not make it to a floor vote in the Senate this session. If the chemical industry takes the position that passage of S 3598 will take the political pressure off them for IST implementation, then the opposition of the AWWA will probably not be enough to stop passage of the bill. Because of the similarities between this bill and Titles II and III of the House passed HR 2868, I think that S 3598 could be quickly passed in the House.

Since the largest number of chlorine holding sites of concern to the IST advocates are water treatment sites, perhaps the Blue-Green Coalition should concentrate their efforts on the passage of S 3598. In fact, it might be beneficial to declare a truce with the chemical industry on the Senate version of HR 2868 to get passage of S 3598. The three year extension of the CFATS authorization would give time for S 3598 to take effect. This would provide a large scale test of IST assessment and implementation in a venue where the profit motive is not a controlling interest. The results of that test would better inform the next debate on IST at chemical facilities.

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