Environmentalists say site security bill being gutted

19 June 2009 17:05  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Environmentalists charged on Friday that both Democrats and Republicans were trying to weaken proposed expansions of the federal chemicals facility antiterrorism security mandate.

Rick Hind, legislative director at Greenpeace in Washington, said that Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee were accepting Republican-sponsored and industry-friendly amendments to HR-2868, the “Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Act of 2009”, that would gut some of the bill’s key provisions.

The committee was in session Friday midday trying to complete work on the bill.

Hind said that the Democrat majority on the committee already accepted a Republican amendment that would allow chemical plant operators to challenge decisions by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to impose inherently safer technology (IST) measures on a given facility.

As originally drafted, the bill would have given DHS authority to dictate changes in a facility’s feedstocks, processes and even products if in the department’s view such changes are needed to reduce possible offsite consequences of a terrorist attack.

The accepted amendment would give facility owners the opportunity to challenge such department IST mandates in a hearing in which the chemical company could bring to bear any evidence against the mandate.

Hind said that other amendments expected during Friday’s mark-up session would seek to strike the IST requirement entirely, exempt small producers from the mandate or invalidate department requirements for safer technology if they would cause job or production losses at a facility.

He said the amendments would tie the hands of department enforcement officials and essentially render the law toothless.

Chemical industry officials have voiced strong opposition to the IST mandate, arguing that production decisions should be left to operators and that the chemical sector traditionally in its own interest has long sought production methods and feedstocks where possible that are less hazardous or toxic.

A high-ranking DHS official also testified earlier this week against an IST mandate, saying the department supports the industry’s voluntary measures to improve operational safety and reduce hazards.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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