Tuesday, September 20, 2011

HR 908 Report Published

While yesterday was a pro forma session for the House it did allow for some housekeeping measures to be completed. One of those was the publication of the Energy and Commerce Committee Report on HR 908, the Full Implementation of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act, House Report 112-211.

Minority Views

There is very little new information in this report, as one would expect from a document that is supposed to reflect committee action on the bill in question. Probably the most interesting portion of the report is the ‘Minority Views’ portion at the end of the report. Surprisingly there is no mention of the topic of mandating inherently safer technology or even encouraging the replacement of dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives at high risk chemical facilities.

This section of the report does address the concern about the exemption of a number of classes of facilities from coverage under the CFATS regulations continued in this revision. The most obvious case of water treatment facilities is mentioned by not as in as much detail as the minority staff discussion of the exemption for NRC covered facilities or even federally owned facilities.

Another complaint that is addressed publicly for the first time in this report is the concern that the §550 authorization allows the Secretary to approve site security plans that do not meet the standards set forth in the Risk-Based Performance Standards published by the Department. This is based on the permissive language that states that the Secretary “may disapprove” instead of directed language like “will disapprove”.

The remainder of the minority concerns covered in this section are fairly standard objections that the Democrats have had with the existing program. They include worker protections against discrimination in the application of the background checks, whistleblower protections, concerns about the sharing of security information with the public and concerns about the lack of public and worker participation in security planning.

All in all the “Minority Views” section is well worth reading in this report, especially among the supporters of the current program. Addressing some of these concerns might make it easier to pass this legislation in both the House and Senate.

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