Thursday, July 21, 2011

CFATS Reauthorization Update

There is an interesting blog post over at by guest blogger Alexis Rudakewych from SOCMA. She looks at the status of three CFATS authorization bills that are wending their way through the legislative process. She pays particular attention to the procedural issues related to their passage.

SOCMA Deadline

She notes in her closing paragraph the concern of SOCMA that a reauthorization bill should be passed before Congress takes its scheduled fall recess on September 23rd. I’m not sure why SOCMA is setting this artificial deadline of getting reauthorization legislation passed this fiscal year. The House version of the DHS appropriations bill that is waiting Senate action contains a standard one-year extension. One would suppose that similar language would be included in any Senate bill that might finally make it through the inactive Senate Appropriations Committee (okay, ‘inactive’ may be misleading; how about ‘otherwise occupied’?). Such language was formally requested by Sen. Lieberman as I noted in an earlier posting.

In any case, the appropriations process will certainly ensure that the CFATS program continues through FY 2012. There is no reason that passage of a one-year extension in the appropriations bill should have any affect on implementation of any of the CFATS bills currently before Congress. Such an extension would take the pressure off any CFATS bill and that could make it easier to work out a compromise or it may stop work on the process. Its hard to tell at this point.

Now I certainly understand SOCMA’s concern that the CFATS program should be put on a firmer footing than depending on the politically charged appropriations process for authorization. While no one has suggested that the CFATS program should be canceled, money managers at covered facilities are concerned about making large security expenditures for a program that might not survive the depreciation schedule for their capital expenditures.

Political Issues

While Ms Rudakewych addresses the procedural issues involved in passage of a CFATS bill, she does not touch on any of the political issues involved. SOCMA has been a vocal industry critic of proposals for including such provisions as IST and public law suits. Such industry opposition was responsible for the failure to pass HR 2868 last session. Failure to address these issues may allow environmental and labor activists to stop passage of HR 901/908 or S 473 this session.

Interestingly it seems that this year the issue that may control final action in the House will have nothing to do with actual security measures. The reason for three separate House bills that essentially do the same thing (different lengths of time for the authorization being the closest thing to a difference in security measures) is that there is an internal House issue about personal political power; which Committee gets the authority to oversea the CFATS program.

SOCMA has been very careful not to pick sides in this debate as has most of the industry. Unfortunately ignoring this issue has done little to solve the problem. It is about time that this power sharing issue is publicly discussed.

In the Senate the political issues actually revolve around the CFATS issues that have been plaguing the chemical security discussion since almost 2001. IST has been probably the largest single sticking point with the two sides taking an all or nothing stance on the issue. Given the Senate rules it doesn’t appear that either side will be able to get enough votes to allow a straight up or down vote on IST.

This session industry appears to have a stronger political position in the debate, but it still looks like the environmental and labor advocates for IST have enough votes to prevent the passage of a cloture motion on the bill. I still think that compromise language is possible and I believe that industry is in a better position to push for compromise. Greenpeace and their friends have spent too much time demonizing the chemical industry to be able to justify compromise to their supporters.

Failure to publicly address these issues is going to insure that we will continue to rely on the DHS authorization process to keep the CFATS program working.

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