Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Senate Holds Chemical Facility Security Hearing

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs held a hearing Wednesday morning discussing chemical security issues and concerns, namely surrounding the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) and its current regulatory and legislative status. The hearing, titled "Chemical Security: Assessing Progress and Charting a Path Forward," consisted of testimony elicited by the Committee from The Honorable Rand Beers, Under Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) National Protection and Programs Directorate; Sue Armstrong, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for DHS's Office of Infrastructure Protection; and The Honorable Peter S. Silva, Assistant Administrator for Water at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); as well as representatives from the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), the American Chemistry Council; and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA).

Much of the hearing focused around the issue of inherently safer technology (IST), as proposed in legislation passed by the House last November (H.R. 2868) that would provide permanent congressional authority for chemical facility security regulation. DHS continues to support IST provisions in legislation that would reauthorize CFATS, while recognizing that much debate continues to surround implementation of IST provisions. The Hon. Rand Beers reiterated the previous stance taken by DHS on this matter, explaining that DHS would take deliberate measures to work with facilities to assess the feasibility of implementing IST, taking into account critical chemical facility changes as well as industry costs. According to testimony elicited Wednesday, IST would only be implemented after listening to all stakeholder interests - assuming the provisions pass full Congressional debate.

According to testimony by both The Hon. Rand Beers and Sue Armstrong, two Tier 1 facilities in the New York/New Jersey area have been selected for DHS inspection pilot programs. DHS plans to inspect ten more Tier 1 facilities this month, and to conclude with the inspection of all 235 Tier 1 facilities by the end of the calendar year. DHS inspection techniques and expectations continue to evolve and change during these initial pilot inspections, according to both Beers and Armstrong.

The hearing comes one month after Senators Collins, Pryor, Landrieu, and Voinovich introduced S. 2996, the Continuing Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Security Act of 2010, which would authorize an extension of CFATS until October 4, 2015. The Senate bill differs in several ways from the House bill passed in May, notably with its absence of IST provisions detailed in the House bill. During the hearing, DHS reiterated that it supports permanent authorization of chemical facility security legislation, and noted that it plans to provide Congress with draft legislation later this fiscal year. Wednesday's hearing is the first held by the Senate regarding chemical facility security since July 2005, when it held a similar 2-panel hearing.

No comments: