Coalition asks Congress to renew chemical security law

11 March 2009 20:44  [Source: ICIS news]

New security coalition formsWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--A broad coalition of chemical, refining, industrial and agricultural interests has urged Congress to renew existing antiterrorism security requirements for chemical sites, according to correspondence made available on Wednesday.

More than 30 trade and commercial organisations in the untitled coalition co-signed a letter sent to every member of Congress, asking that legislators simply renew the existing chemical facility antiterrorism regulations without major alterations.

The existing regulations, formally known as the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), were ordered by Congress in 2006 but were given a three-year sunset provision, meaning the requirements will expire at the end of this year unless renewed or replaced by the legislature.

Now being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the existing site security requirements allow federal officials to mandate security measures at chemical production, storage or transit facilities that in the department’s view might be at high risk for a terrorist attack.

As many as 7,000 facilities nationwide are estimated to fall within the department's high-risk definition.

Legislation to renew or replace the site security statute was introduced in Congress last year, but that bill drew criticism from the chemicals industry and others who argued that provisions designed to toughen the regulations could harm production and the economy as a whole.

The newly formed coalition is asking Congress to simply make the existing regulations without significant alteration.

In particular, the industry sectors that signed the letter asked that members of Congress “oppose disrupting this security programme by adding provisions that would mandate government-favoured substitutions, weaken protection of sensitive information, impose stifling penalties for administrative errors, create conflicts with other security standards or move away from a performance (or risk-based) approach”.

In particular, chemical producers and others want to avoid imposition of an inherently safer technology (IST) mandate that was included in last year’s draft legislation.

If the DHS were authorised to impose inherently safer technology requirements as a security requirement, it is feared that the department could order producers to limit or end use of certain feedstocks, processes or end products.

“Our top concern is that legislation could go beyond security protections by creating a mandate to substitute products and processes with a government-selected technology,” the letter said.

“This could actually increase risk to the businesses that the bill intends to protect,” the letter added, saying that an IST mandate would likely lead to loss of viable products, prohibitive legal liability and business failures.

Those groups signing the letter include the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) and the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), among other chemicals-related associations.

Groups outside or broader than the chemicals sector who joined in the appeal to Congress included the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the Edison Electric Institute and the Agricultural Retailers Association.

Congress must complete legislation to renew the site security statute by September this year.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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