10 September 2002 20:25 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--US Senator Jon Corzine (Democrat-New Jersey) may modify his chemical plant security bill to address some industry concerns in an effort to boost support for the controversial measure, CNI learned Tuesday.
But it remains unclear whether Corzine would offer the bill this week as an amendment to legislation currently being debated on the Senate floor that would create a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (Democrat-South Dakota) supports the Corzine bill but said last week he would defer to sponsors of the homeland security legislation, led by Senator Joseph Lieberman (Democrat-Connecticut), to determine whether the chemical security proposal is relevant enough to be attached.
Lieberman voted for the Corzine bill in July when it was passed unanimously by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. But he currently does not plan to attach it to the homeland security measure, a spokesman told CNI today.
Activists from Greenpeace, who have been lobbying for passage of the chemical security measure, said Corzine could offer his bill as an amendment on Thursday.
"The critical vote on the Chemical Security Act may come as early as tomorrow, 11 September," Greenpeace said in an "action alert" to its members.
The organisation said: "Your input is needed again to urge the enactment of [the Corzine bill] this year without any loopholes added by the chemical industry. Make sure the Chemical Security Act is included in the homeland security bill."
The activist group noted that "chemical industry giants like Dow Chemical have been lobbying hard, vigorously opposing this legislation and calling for a voluntary program to secure their dangerous chemicals."
An aide to Corzine said it is uncertain whether the bill would be offered to the homeland security legislation as an amendment, or to some other bill that both the Senate and House of Representatives will consider before the end of the year.
The spokesman declined to offer any specifics, but said the senator may make some adjustments to ease the concerns of industry groups before offering it as an amendment.
The Corzine bill is strongly opposed by the chemical industry and refiners, who say it would splinter security responsibility away from the new DHS and grant the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extensive new authority that it does not have the expertise to properly handle.
The bill would direct EPA to develop regulations requiring "high priority" facilities to assess their vulnerability to a terrorist attack and draft prevention and emergency response plans that would be certified by the agency.
Companies would have to consider substituting safer materials and processes that reduce or eliminate the possibility of a chemical release.
The Bush administration opposes the Corzine bill and is considering publishing regulations that would require some 15 000 chemical plants and other industrial facilities to conduct vulnerability assessments and take steps to correct weaknesses and bolster security.
EPA officials have said the agency will probably allow third-party auditors to certify the assessments because the agency does not have the resources to do so.
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