Sunday, February 23, 2014

Congressional Hearings – Week of 2-23-14

The House and Senate return from their President’s Day recess this week and there are three congressional hearings slated that might be of specific interest to readers of this blog. They deal with CFATS, rail transportation safety, and the new DHS Secretary.

DHS Secretary

The new DHS Secretary, Jeh Johnson, has been traveling around the country learning all about the various agencies that report to him. This week he will be traveling to Capitol Hill to talk to the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. This will be a high-level discussion about a wide range of issues with very little in the way of specifics mentioned. Cybersecurity will certainly come up and perhaps chemical security, but only because of the President’s Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security Executive order.

Rail Transportation Safety

The House Transportation Committee will hold an oversight hearing on passenger and freight rail safety. According to the Staff memo about the subject matter there will be two topics of chemical safety interest; a review of Positive Train Control implementation, and the ever popular crude oil train problem. The witness list includes:

• Administrator Szabo, Federal Railroad Administration;
• Administrator Quarterman, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration;
• Mr. Sumwalt, Member, National Transportation Safety Board
• Mr. Tolman, Vice President & National Legislative Representative, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen
• Mr. Gerard, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Petroleum Institute
• Mr. Melaniphy, President, American Public Transportation Association
• Mr. Hamberger, President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of American Railroads

This is a very large committee and members will be dropping in and leaving like it was a train station. This means that there will be a lot of repetitive questions and no one will apparently be listening to the answers. I hope the witnesses have taken their valium.

CFATS Hearing

On Thursday the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will be holding a legislative hearing on HR 4007, a bill that would more formally authorize the current CFATS program. There is not a witness list published yet, but the first witness will almost certainly be ISCD Director Wulf followed by the standard industry and activist witnesses. I would not be surprised to see another GAO CFATS report released.

As we have come to expect over the last year and a half there will be hard questions asked about the implementation of CFATS. Two topics that will surely come up will be site security plan implementation and the personnel surety program.

On the Floor

There is no legislation currently planned to come to the floor of the House or Senate that will be of specific interest to readers of this blog. That can certainly change, particularly in the Senate.

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