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High-risk chemical facilities addressed in DHS bill

President Bush has signed into law a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill, House Resolution (HR) 5441, which contains language authorizing DHS to regulate security at high-risk chemical facilities.

The bill was finalized by the House and Senate September 30 and signed by the President October 4.

According to Senate information, the legislation includes a provision to authorize the DHS Secretary to issue interim risk-based security regulations on high-risk chemical facilities. The three-year authorization gives the Secretary and facilities flexibility to achieve the appropriate risk reduction, but also provides the Secretary a means to inspect and sanction non-compliant facilities, including the authority to shut down non-compliant facilities until they comply. The provision protects sensitive information, but allows it to be shared with appropriate authorities.

Members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) have been in the vanguard of this issue by voluntarily securing their facilities under ACC’s Responsible Care Security Code even as they urged Congress to pass meaningful chemical security legislation, according to ACC information.

“While we would have preferred a more comprehensive bill and still have concerns regarding certain provisions, the approved legislation gives the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) the power to establish effective national chemical security performance standards for the entire industry," Jack N Gerard, ACC president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “Congress has given DHS risk-based tools to ensure that chemical facilities assess potential security vulnerabilities and implement appropriate security measures. Equally important, the legislation gives DHS clear authority to inspect facilities and apply strong penalties to those that fail to comply."

The bill authorizes $34.8 billion for DHS operations and activities in fiscal year 2007, an increase of $2.3 billion above fiscal year 2006 and $2.7 billion above the President’s request (includes $1.8 in emergency spending). Included in the bill's $496 million for biological, chemical, and explosives countermeasures is the section addressing high-risk chemical facilities.

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