Chemical officials oppose new US anti-terrorism bill

25 January 2013 19:09  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Chemical sector officials on Friday cautioned against further legislative changes to federal rules governing anti-terrorism security at production facilities, saying there is no need for a tougher security mandate.

Bill Allmond, vice president for government relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), said that “there is currently no credible threat to the chemicals sector or changes that justify a heavier hand by the federal government”.

Allmond spoke after Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) introduced a bill that would require chemical facilities seen as at risk of terrorist attack to employ inherently safer technology (IST) measures to reduce their vulnerability and reduce off-site consequences of such an attack.

Security at US high-risk chemical production, storage and transit facilities is already regulated under the 2005 Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). 

Under that statute, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sets anti-terrorism security standards for at-risk sites, but facility owners may decide what security measures to use to meet the department’s standards.

CFATS does not include a mandate for use of inherently safer technology.

Lautenberg said that his proposed bill, the “Secure Chemical Facilities Act”, would among other things “require facilities using dangerous chemicals to evaluate whether the facility could reduce the consequences of an attack by, for example, using a safer chemical or process”.

Under the bill, the operator of a high-risk site would be required to use those inherently safer chemicals or implement safer production processes if feasible.

Lautenberg said that the inherently safer technology mandate is necessary in order to protect populations surrounding what he said were more than 12,000 facilities nationwide that could be targeted by terrorists.

US chemicals producers have long been opposed to an IST mandate, arguing that it would give DHS authority to dictate feedstocks, production processes and end-products.

Allmond said that SOCMA opposes the Lautenberg bill on grounds that existing security measures under CFATS “have repeatedly been deemed appropriate and sufficient by congressional members in both parties in both chambers over multiple Congresses”.

He said that additional security measures, such as an IST mandate, “have been considered and rejected by previous Congresses”.

He said SOCMA supports a multi-year extension of the existing CFATS without substantive changes.

CFATS is currently being extended by Congress on a year-to-year basis, in part because legislators want to monitor DHS enforcement that has come under criticism for waste and mismanagement.

By: Joe Kamalick
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