Wednesday, June 29, 2011

S 473 Passes in Senate Homeland Security Committee

This morning after a very brief mark-up hearing the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed S 473, the Continuing Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Security Act of 2011 in a bipartisan vote of 8-2 (with additional uncounted proxy votes of 5-2). This bill would extend the current CFATS authorization for three years and add voluntary programs for training and exercises as well as have DHS establish a source for ‘best practices’ information for potential voluntary IST implementation.

Sen. Collins (R, ME), the Ranking Member of the Committee and author of the bill, introduced a technical amendment to the proposed bill that would update the ‘current’ ending date of the CFATS program from October 4, 2010 to October 4, 2011. This amendment was passed on a voice vote without dissent.

There was a brief discussion about the added costs of the programs added in this bill. Those costs were estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be $30 Million per year. Chairman Lieberman and Rep. Collins agreed to work together to come up with offsets to allow for the necessary increased spending authorization.

There was some opposition to the lack of IST provisions and not ending the water facility exemptions, both from Senators Lieberman and Akaka (D, HI). In the end Lieberman voted for the bill and Akaka against it. Lieberman expressed his belief that those issues would be addressed when the bill got to the floor of the Senate.

There was the brief mention of a new idea for the CFATS program that came up in the discussion of the increased costs. One Senator (and I didn’t catch his name and the video did not show name tags) suggested that the program could be changed to have the covered facilities pay a regulatory fee to cover some of the costs of the program. No formal proposal was made.

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