03 April 2007 21:53 [Source: ICIS news]
The office of Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (Democrat-Texas) said she plans a mark-up session in the near term for a bill she introduced last month that would add strict new security requirements for chemical facilities.
Jackson Lee is chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on transportation security and infrastructure protection, so movement of her bill through that panel is all but assured.
Her office said the congresswoman and other Democrats in the House and Senate are more determined to push a tougher security bill through Congress in light of final site protection regulations issued by the Department of Homeland Security on Monday.
Those regulations, which implement the chemical plant antiterrorism security law passed by the then Republican-majority Congress late last year, include a provision that could allow the department to override tougher security measures enacted at the state level.
The law approved by Congress, however, was silent on the matter of federal pre-emption of state law, and Jackson Lee and others are angered that the department seemingly took it upon itself to include pre-emption language in the rules.
“We are very concerned that the rules conflict with congressional intent on pre-emption,” an official with Jackson Lee’s office said.
The department has said it does not anticipate pre-empting existing site security laws in
“This bill is a top priority matter,” the official in Jackson Lee’s office said.
In addition to reversing the department’s federal pre-emption provision, Jackson Lee’s bill would give the department authority to dictate to producers what security measures should be employed at particular sites, including mandatory use of inherently safer technologies.
Her bill also would allow private right of action lawsuits, giving interest groups and individuals the ability to file civil lawsuits against chemical plants and owners in an effort to force compliance with the security law.
The office source said that Jackson Lee’s toughening provisions have wide support among Democrat leadership in the House and Senate, noting that similar language was incorporated into spending bills passed by both chambers. Those measures, however, face a likely presidential veto, so Jackson Lee’s bill is seen as the most probable vehicle for tougher security measures.
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