White House budget kicks site security law into 2011

02 February 2010 23:43  [Source: ICIS news]

White House would extend security lawWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The White House budget proposal for next year would extend the existing federal mandate for antiterrorism security measures at US chemical facilities for another year to October 2011, according to budget details identified on Tuesday.

The budget’s provision for another one-year extension of the existing law - the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) - suggests that White House planners think Congress might be unable to complete work on new and permanent chemical facility security provisions this year.

The original CFATS was authorised in 2006 in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill for 2007, at a time when Republicans controlled the US Senate and House. 

To gain support for the measure among Democrats - who wanted a future opportunity to put tougher requirements in the statute - Republicans agreed to a three-year sunset provision, meaning the statute would lapse in late 2009 unless renewed or extended by Congress.

Last year the House passed expanded chemical site security legislation, which included a new inherently safer technology mandate much opposed by industry, but the Senate never got around to drafting its own version.

Near the end of last year Congress approved a one-year extension of the existing CFATS provisions to October 2010, on the assumption that the Senate would find time in the first nine months of this year to pass its own site security legislation and then find common ground with the House-passed bill.

But in President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2011, delivered to Congress on Monday, the section on spending by the Department of Homeland Security includes language that extends the existing CFATS requirements to October 2011.

The US chemicals sector generally would prefer to have the existing site security provisions made permanent as is and has lobbied against the type of expansion passed by the House.

Bill Holbrook, spokesman for the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said his trade group would prefer that Congress simply make the current site security regulations permanent.

“However, if an appropriate piece of legislation cannot be passed this year,” he said, “then the extension will be a welcomed backstop to keep things moving.”

Bill Allmond, vice president for government relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), said he expects that “the CFATS extension provided for in the president's budget is merely a placeholder in lieu of congressional legislation to otherwise make the programme permanent”.

“Since the prospects for Senate passage of a permanent CFATS bill this year looks less and less likely, this budget request simply ensures continuation of the existing program,” Allmond added.

If the existing CFATS rules are extended for another year, it would mean that congressional consideration of permanent site security requirements would take place after this year’s US general elections.

Republicans are expected to recover some seats in Congress in November’s national vote, although their prospects of regaining the majority in either the House or Senate remain doubtful.

Still, a shift in party balance in the House and Senate could have a material impact on what kind of new site security legislation might be acted on by the 112th Congress in 2011.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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