US Congress set to extend site security law for one year

29 September 2010 18:56  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Senate is expected to pass a temporary spending bill on Wednesday that would include a one-year extension of existing federal rules governing antiterrorism security measures at US high-risk chemical facilities, congressional sources said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved what is called a continuing resolution (CR) measure, a short-term spending authorisation that would keep the federal government operating for some weeks after the fiscal year ends in September.

The continuing resolution was necessary because Congress has failed to pass many of the formal appropriations bills for fiscal year 2011, which begins on 1 October.

Without the temporary spending authorisation for a variety of departments, agencies and programmes, federal government activities would grind to a halt.

Among provisions included in the Senate’s continuing resolution measure is language specifying that the existing authority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to monitor and regulate antiterrorism security measures at US chemical facilities would be continued for one year.

The department’s mandate for that activity is in the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), which became law in 2006. 

But that statute expires on 30 September with the expiration of the 2010 federal fiscal year, and Congress has failed to formally revise or renew CFATS for 2011 and beyond.

However, the Senate continuing resolution measure would itself expire on 3 December, so Congress must by that date give final approval to 2011 appropriations bills for the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, or pass yet another continuing resolution bill to carry federal spending and activity into the new year and a new Congress.

Congress has been unable to come to terms on whether to make the existing CFATS authority permanent, the course that US chemical companies would prefer, or to strengthen and toughen the legislation to give the department more authority to impose operational changes at high-risk chemical plants in order to reduce their vulnerability to a terrorist attack.

The Senate is expected to approve the Appropriations Committee’s continuing resolution later on Wednesday, with House approval of the measure either on Wednesday night or sometime on Thursday so that President Barack Obama can sign it before midnight on Thursday.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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