Inherently safer tech, lawsuits stay in US chem security bill

24 June 2009 21:00  [Source: ICIS news]

Congress committee passes chem security billWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Inherently safer technology (IST) for chemical plants and the ability to file civil suits against producers have survived in a security bill although smaller businesses have won some concessions, sources said on Wednesday.

IST and civil litigation remained part of a chemical security reauthorisation bill passed on Tuesday by the House Homeland Security Committee.

Chemical companies did win a few concessions in the legislation, however. The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) noted on Wednesday that the bill offered some consideration for small business.

The committee adopted amendments introduced by Representative Charlie Dent (Republican-Pennsylvania) that would require the secretary of Homeland Security to report to Congress on how implementation of IST would impact the facilities involved and would stop any mandate that would require a facility to cut staff or production.

"We thank the committee for addressing chemical security and Congressman Dent for his efforts to protect batch chemical manufacturers," Bill Allmond, SOCMA vice president of government relations, said in a statement Wednesday.

"However, we continue to have serious reservations about the proposed legislation, namely its environmental approach to a security issue," he added. "The IST provision would take the decisions about risk away from workers in chemical facilities and leave them to bureaucrats in Washington.”

The bill “would force scientists' hands and deal a severe economic blow to SOCMA's member companies,” Allmond said. “This provision could have disastrous unintended consequences for a number of industries, all while having minimal impact on the actual security of a chemical facility."

SOCMA also expressed disappointment over the bill's provision to permit civil suits against chemical companies not in compliance with the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) or against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for failing to enforce the regulations. The bill would permit such suits by uninjured parties but give DHS time to address the grievance.

Republicans offered three amendments to weaken or remove the civil suit provision, but all were defeated along party lines. The bill passed out of the committee 18-11, with no Republican support.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee also will mark up the original bill before it moves to the floor of the House for a vote.

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By: Mickey McCarter
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