Text Excerpted from "Serial Hijackings Leave Millions at Risk of Chemical Disaster," by Rick Hind. Full blog available at The Hill's Congress Blog

Within weeks of the 9/11 attacks, the first chemical security legislation (S.1602) was introduced in the Senate and would have conditionally required the use of safer processes at high risk plants. Even the Bush EPA drafted rules to prevent chemical disasters through the use of safer processes. In July 2002 the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously adopted a compromise of S.1602. But by autumn the legislation was dead and the regulations quashed. 

In 2006, when Republicans feared losing control of the Congress, the 2001 legislation was revived. Senator Susan Collins’ (R-Maine) bill (S. 2145) even included safer processes as a “security measure.” Collins then led the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) in adopting a bill that barred DHS from requiring any security measure, including safer processes.  

In July Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) offered an amendment to the DHS appropriations bill to establish interim security standards which the Senate unanimously approved. Soon after, King’s Homeland Security Committee adopted a bipartisan bill (H.R. 5695) that conditionally required safer processes. Subcommittee chair Representative Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) told AP, "In an election year…and you're coming up on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, members both in the House and Senate are going to start looking at what they can show in way of accomplishment in the area of security."

By the fall of 2006 the Republican led Appropriations Committee created the current law that perverted the Byrd amendment so as to prohibit DHS from requiring any security measure, including safer processes. The committee also added regulatory exemptions for most refineries, all water treatment plants, and others. 

Disaster prevention gained momentum in 2009 after the DHS and EPA urged Congress to conditionally require safer processes, where feasible, and to close security gaps at refineries, water treatment and other facilities. November 6, 2009 the House did exactly that in adopting H.R. 2868.

Although Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) chairs the HSGAC and supports safer processes as “the only fool proof” way to avert disasters, in 2010 Collins led his Committee to support the flawed current law. Unfortunately she plans to offer an identical bill (S.473) in Committee on June 29th.