US specialty firms worry over safer technology bill in Congress

12 January 2010 21:29  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US specialty chemical producers said on Tuesday that they are most concerned about a possible congressional mandate for inherently safer technology (IST) in upcoming antiterrorism site security legislation.

The full Congress will reconvene next week after the holidays, and the legislature has said it is committed to renewing and expanding the current Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) before the fourth quarter.

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), which represents US specialty and batch chemicals producers, said that congressional action to revise the site security law is the group’s most pressing concern.

SOCMA spokeswoman Christine Sanchez said the site security issue - and congressional efforts to include an inherently safer technology mandate in that legislation - is the most pressing matter for specialty producers simply because it is certain of action in months ahead.

She noted that the US House passed its version of a new chemical facility antiterrorism measure in November last year and the Senate is generally expected to consider a companion bill by mid-year.

The House bill does impose an inherently safer technology mandate for chemical facilities judged to be at high risk for a possible attack by terrorists seeking to cause major off-site casualties. 

Under the House-passed legislation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have authority to shut down a plant that refuses to implement safer technology measures dictated by the department.

Leading proponents of chemical facility security legislation in the Senate also are said to favour an IST mandate of some sort.

Bill Allmond, the society’s vice president for government relations, said that the group’s member firms bombarded the House last year with more than 200 letters opposing the IST mandate.

Although that effort was not successful, Allmond said SOCMA has hopes of better results in the Senate.

“Our grassroots efforts are now focused on the Senate, which is expected to give greater consideration to the harmful effects IST implementation would have on batch chemical manufacturers,” Allmond said.

In addition to the pending site security legislation, SOCMA also is concerned about congressional work on climate change legislation, taxes, free trade agreements and what is certain to be a major reform of the principal US chemicals control legislation, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

While a climate change bill might be acted on this year, SOCMA thinks it is unlikely that Congress will approve a measure that would impose a cap on US emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

Although a cap-and-trade mandate now seems unlikely, SOCMA nonetheless sees a major climate change bill as a top Democrat congressional priority over the next two years.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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