More chemical security legislation may be enacted

There appears to be significant congressional interest in pursuing new chemical security legislation despite the fact that the current law, which was enacted a year ago, expires in October 2009, according to information presented at the InteChem07: Security, Stewardship, Supply Chain conference in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jennifer Gibson of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) discussed legislative and regulatory outlook for chemical security at the meeting.

Gibson said the House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2008 Homeland Security Appropriations bills contain provisions explicitly allowing states and localities to adopt and enforce standards more stringent than the federal rules.

She noted that the House version of the bill would also replace the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Chemical-terrorism Vulnerability Information (CVI) protections with the less restrictive Sensitive Security Information (SSI) protections of the Department of Transportation. Gibson pointed out that if this were enacted into law, all of the documents that have already been marked as CVI would have to be re-marked as SSI.

Gibson indicated that there is interest among some in Congress to pursue separate comprehensive chemical security legislation in the coming months. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), chairwoman of the Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced legislation in March, has held one chemical security hearing, and is considering introducing additional legislation.

Gibson said that NACD is opposed to these efforts to enact new chemical security legislation before the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) are fully implemented and tested.

“For the first time in history, the federal government now has the authority to regulate chemical facilities to ensure that they have taken measures to protect against a terrorist attack,” she said. “The requirements under CFATS are comprehensive and stringent, and NACD urges Congress to allow these to work before changing the requirements,” said Gibson.

In addition, the protection of chemical facilities is a national security issue, and NACD believes that federal preemption is an important element of an effective chemical security program. “There is precedent for federal preemption in the areas of aviation, nuclear, port, and hazardous materials transportation security,” Gibson said. “Without a strong national standard, we will have a patchwork of different chemical security rules throughout the nation, making compliance confusing for any company that does business across state lines, which is the norm in our industry. This would not be in the best interest of national security, the objective that chemical security legislation is meant to promote.”

On the regulatory front, Gibson said that NACD members were awaiting the publication of the Appendix A list of chemicals of interest that will trigger the requirement to complete a Top Screen consequence assessment. Once this is complete, industry will be looking for further guidance on Security Vulnerability Assessments and Site Security Plans, including guidance on Risk Based Performance Standards under CFATS.

Gibson delivered her remarks as part of a panel entitled “Forecasting Chemical Security Developments on the Horizon” along with Bill Allmond, director of government Relations for the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), and Kent Anderson, president of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration.

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