InterviewRenewing US site security law is top issue

03 April 2009 22:56  [Source: ICIS news]

By Joe Kamalick

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The looming renewal of chemical facility antiterrorism regulations with a possible federal mandate for inherently safer technologies (IST) is the most pressing issue facing the chemicals sector, a top industry official said on Friday.

Chris Jahn, president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD), said the pending rewrite of the federal Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) poses the greatest near-term concern because Congress must renew the legislation before the end of September when it expires.

Other pending legislative issues also are of concern and may have equally profound impact, but congressional work on those matters - a possible cap-and-trade emissions reduction measure and reform of the principal US chemicals control programme - will take years perhaps, he said.

That leaves renewal of CFATS as the most pressing matter, Jahn said, especially as many in Congress want to use the security issue as a means to impose an inherently safer technology mandate on the chemicals industry.

If the site security measure is renewed with an IST mandate, Jahn fears that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have authority to force changes in feedstocks, processes and end products at chemical plants deemed to be at high risk for possible terrorist attacks.

“IST was developed by the chemicals industry, and we already have a market incentive to use and develop safer processes and products,” Jahn said.

“Congress also should be mindful of unintended consequences,” he said, noting that many on Capitol Hill want to see, for example, bleach substituted for chlorine in water treatment applications.

“But that means that we will have to ship a lot more bleach - which is just diluted chlorine - than we do chlorine, which means more volumes in transit and the potential for a greater number of accidents,” he said.

Jahn suggested that some in Congress seek to use antiterrorism security as a means to ban some chemicals that they cannot legitimately force out of commerce otherwise.

He said it might be hard to block IST as a component in a new site security statute.

“In the House it will be very difficult because the Democrats have such a large majority there,” he said, “which means that the focus will be on the Senate - but even there it will be a challenge.”

“The pressure of a looming deadline, the end of September, for renewal of the security law, plus the fact that President Obama would sign a site security bill with IST in it - means this is a major challenge,” he said.

Jahn said he sees a major rewrite of the site security statute, especially with an IST component, as particularly unwarranted because the existing law and implementing regulations are just starting to play out.

“I think it is premature to add IST when we don’t know how the current law is working,” he said. “We ought to renew that as is and see how it is working.”

Jahn, whose organisation represents some 250 firms that process, formulate, blend and in some cases manufacture chemicals as well as distribute them, thinks it will take three or four years for Congress to revise the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the main US chemicals regulatory programme.

And, if Congress does complete work on a cap-and-trade emissions mandate, he thinks that such a complex and complicated piece of legislation will take two years at least.

“But that’s not to say it won’t be done,” he added.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Joe Kamalick
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