Democrats Consider Loopholes in Chemical Security Bill

July 6, 2010

Tomorrow, the House Homeland Security Committee Democrats will consider inserting loopholes in their own bill (H.R. 2868) on behalf of the chemical industry. If adopted, these amendments will gut the "Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009" (H.R. 2868) which was introduced on June 15th by Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA).

In particular, these amendments will tie the hands of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), perpetuate disastrous risks to communities and employees and burden business and government with redundant studies. In addition, they could also exempt any of the highest risk plants in the country, one hundred of which each put over 1 million people at risk, from the best security measures.

Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) is among the lead sponsors of these amendments.  Ironically Dent voted for strong legislation in 2006 and 2008 but today is offering numerous industry amendments, including one that would strip any consideration of safer chemical processes that have eliminated catastrophic risk in hundreds of communities.

"We don't need more loopholes and inaction, we need a law that protects the 110 million Americans who are still at risk because the existing law ties the hands of Homeland Security the way these amendments would continue to do," said Rick Hind, Legislative Director of Greenpeace.

By replacing poison gases with safer chemical processes at high-risk chemical plants, more than 200 chemical facilities have converted to safer chemical processes since 9/11 sparing millions of Americans the threat of a poison gas disaster.  A blue-green coalition of more than 50 organizations including the UAW, Steelworkers, UFCW, Teamsters, SEIU, AFSCME, IAFF, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, U.S. PIRG, Greenpeace, have urged support for modest legislation that would implement cost-effective safer chemical processes to protect workers, communities and jobs.

As introduced, without amendments, H.R. 2868 strikes a compromise by conditionally requiring only the chemical facilities assigned to the two highest 'risk tiers' to implement safer processes where feasible, cost-effective, would not shift risks to other localities and provides $100 million to defray the cost of implementing safer chemical processes.

Before amendments, H.R. 2868 also would:

- Eliminate the current law's exemption of thousands of chemical plants (MTSA) and wastewater facilities

- Involve plant employees in the development of security plans and provides protection for whistleblowers

- Preserve state's authority to establish stronger security standards

- Allow citizens to enforce the law by suing the government or other violators of the law

VVPR info: Contact: Jane Kochersperger, Media Officer, (202) 680-3798 cell; Rick Hind, Legislative Director (202) 413-8513 cell

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