03 March 2011 21:10 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Republican and Democrat members of Congress on Thursday introduced legislation to extend without substantive change the existing federal rules governing antiterrorism security at chemical plants.
Companion bills introduced in the Senate and House by bipartisan sponsors would extend the current Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) for three years.
The measures include some minor changes to encourage greater plant owner cooperation with local law enforcement, fire fighters and emergency responders.
The bills also would establish a “best-practices” clearing house at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through which plant operators and security teams could exchange ideas and techniques.
The department is responsible for enforcing the existing four-year-old standards.
In particular, the proposed three-year extension of the existing CFATS programme would provide the US chemicals sector with an extended period of certainty about what would be required by federal authorities to improve security at facilities deemed to be at risk of attack by terrorists.
During the last two years, Democrat members of Congress and the Obama administration had sought major revisions to CFATS, including a new mandate that would give the department authority to impose inherently safer technology (IST) measures at will on any facility. That measure had been strongly opposed by industry.
Other features sought by Democrats in the last Congress included a private right of action measure, which would have allowed citizens and interest groups to file suit in federal court to force enforcement action by the department against specific plant sites.
That measure, along with a proposal that would have encouraged state governments to enact their own, more stringent antiterrorism rules for plant sites, was not included in the bipartisan bills proposed on Thursday.
The extension bills would, however, create a voluntary technical assistance programme under the existing CFATS rules that would allow the department, at the request of owners/operators, to provide recommended security measures.
Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy
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