US House panel approves extension of current site security rules

04 May 2011 22:09  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy on Wednesday approved a bill to extend without changes the existing federal antiterrorism security regulations for chemical plants to 2017.

The subcommittee, part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, approved HR-908 with a voice vote.

The bill extends statutory authority to 2017 for the existing Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), which have been enforced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since first implemented in 2007.

Statutory authority for CFATS technically expired at the end of September 2009, but the regulations have been continued by a series of short-term resolutions.

HR-908 now faces a vote before the full committee, where it was expected to pass as well.

The principal US chemical industry trade associations hailed the subcommittee vote, saying the approval was another step toward securing long-term extension of the existing rules without change.

Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), noted that the vote to extend current rules comes at a time when “recent events are an important reminder that we must continue the work of securing our nation from potential threats”.

Dooley apparently was referring to the action on Sunday by US special forces in killing the long-sought terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. That development prompted US security officials on Monday to warn of possible retaliatory attacks by terrorists seeking revenge for bin Laden’s death.

National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) president Charles Drevna said the subcommittee vote “is an important first step in making the current [CFATS] programme permanent”.

He said that a “long term extension of the current programme provides chemical manufacturers and refiners with the regulatory certainty required to help them keep our country safe from terrorist attacks”.

Bill Allmond, vice president for government relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), noted that “today’s vote marks the second time in less than three weeks that a congressional panel has endorsed the continuation of the current standards”.

He was referring to a vote in mid-April by a subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee to approve a similar measure, HR-901. The measure would extend the existing regulations a year further to 2018, and it also provides an extra measure of security for information that regulated chemical companies must provide to the department for compliance purposes.

Both bills still face a vote by the respective parent committees. Before being moved on to the full House, the two measures might be combined, or one could be sidelined in favour of the other.
But full House approval of a simple multi-year extension of CFATS was expected.

A long-term extension of the CFATS regulations faces a tougher contest in the US Senate, where some Democrats, with White House backing, want tougher chemical facility security requirements.


By: Joe Kamalick
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