Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Water Security and HR 2868

Bridget O’Grady over on the Security Notes blog at ASDWA.org has an interesting post about Sen. Lieberman wanting to see a floor amendment adding water facility coverage under CFATS to the HR 2868 debate if it comes up in the Lame Duck session. She doesn’t provide a source for his comments, but he did make similar comments during the last hearing his committee had on HR 2868.

He also noted in that hearing that he expected to see the IST provisions brought out as a possible floor amendment if/when HR 2868 came up for debate. If the IST provisions are added, I don’t see a cloture vote passing on the final bill. Without IST requirements, the inclusion of water facilities (water treatment and waste water treatment) might not be a killer amendment to the final consideration of HR 2868.

Any water amendment that wanted even a modicum of support (more likely the lack of vociferous opposition) from the water treatment industry would have to include provisions that would prohibit the Secretary from closing down non-complying water treatment facilities. Adding a water facility security grant program would quiet opposition to this even more. Making this just a chemical security issue with these two provisions might be passable in the Lame Duck session.

I have heard that DHS figures that such an elimination of the water facility exemption from CFATS would probably double the number of facilities covered under the program. I would expect that it would also significantly increase the number of Tier 1 and Tier 2 facilities. This would be a fairly large increase in the work load for chemical facility security inspectors, but that could be addressed in adding authorization for some more much needed inspectors in the amendment.

On the other hand the delay involved in the rule making process might mitigate that work load increase. It might also provide more time for more facilities to reconsider their decision to continue to use toxic inhalation chemicals instead of less hazardous alternatives and provide a positive inducement to make that change. That would further reduce the increased work load.

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