29 December 2006 20:00 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US Congress in 2007 is likely to consider new legislation governing security at chemical plants, raising still more uncertainty for producers even as they begin to cope with the 2006 site security law.
Passage of an antiterrorism chemical plant site security measure in 2006 was a major objective for many ?xml:namespace>
For council president Jack Gerard, congressional action on site security was a success because the final bill “was risk-based and focused on the most important facilities.”
Equally important, said Gerard, was that the measure did not explicitly rule out federal pre-emption of state laws on plant site security, and it did not adopt inherently safer technology - the use of less toxic materials and less volatile processes - as a security measure.
Gerard held out hope that in drafting regulations to implement the 2006 security law, the Department of Homeland Security will establish that federal law pre-empts state control of chemical site security matters.
However, that issue and others concerning chemical site security are still wide open because the law passed in 2006 includes a three-year sunset provision, meaning it will expire in 2009 unless Congress renews the statute.
With a new Democrat majority in both the House and Senate, Congress is certain to revisit site security legislation.
“I fully expect the new Congress will be anxious to look into this again,” Gerard said. “Some in Congress who did not get what they wanted in this bill [such as authority for state legislation and a safer technology mandate] will want to come back at it again in 2007.”
Joe Acker, president of the Synthetic Organic Chemicals Manufacturers Association, said he agrees that the biggest shortcoming in the 2006 site security bill is its three-year sunset provision.
Rob McArver, director of federal relations for the synthetic producers group, said the certainty of renewed congressional attention to this issue - and probably in 2007, well before the existing law expires - creates uncertainty.
“Uncertainty in this is a real problem for chemical companies,” McArver said. To meet requirements of the 2006 site security law, he noted, “companies will be making significant investments, and with Congress to revisit this issue now raises the question of whether those investments will be pertinent” or just money down the drain.
The Department of Homeland Security is to publish its site security regulations in early April.
In addition to those impending site security regulations, the
Still more security legislation is likely for rail transit of chemical cargoes. Federal officials are expected to issue new tank car design and construction standards in 2007. Many chemical companies welcome design improvements for tank cars and some are actively working with federal officials on new standards - but those new standards will raise costs for producers because they typically own or lease the tankers.
Lastly and perhaps most troublesome, Congress may take heed of a growing movement among local and state lawmakers to enact legislation that will bar railroad tank cars carrying toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials from rail routes through or close to population centres. If passed, such legislation also will raise costs for producers, shippers and chemicals consumers.
For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.
Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.
|ICIS news FREE TRIAL|
|Get access to breaking chemical news as it happens.|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX)|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX). Download the free tabular data and a chart of the historical index|