How the chemical security bill becomes a law

by Michelle Frey

February 2, 2010

Did you know that the Department of Homeland Security has identified 6,300 “high-risk” chemical plants in the United States? Examples of dangerous chemical plants are the ones that store and use large quantities of poison gases (like chlorine). If there were an accident or attack at a plant in a populated area, it could kill or injure 100 million people in as few as 24 minutes. That’s really disturbing news.

But, the good news is that these risks are preventable. Nationwide, 287 plants have switched to safer and more secure chemicals or processes since 1999 and eliminated these risks to 38.5 million Americans.

While some plants have switched voluntarily, others won’t do the same until a law is passed that requires it. That’s where the chemical security bill comes into play. Where feasible, the bill will make the most dangerous plants convert to safer manufacturing and aims to protect millions of lives.

The chemical security bill has been moving along in Congress. The bill has had quite a journey. In November, 2009 it was passed in the House and now it’s waiting to be taken up by the Senate.

If you have forgotten the “ins and outs” of the US legislative process, maybe this School House Rocks video will refresh your memory. I remember watching it as a kid and find it’s a simple (and cute) way of seeing how a bill finally becomes a law in our Congress.


As you can see from the video, it’s not easy to become a law. The bill has to go through both the House and Senate and in between it goes into committees and even subcommittees. It’s enough to make your head spin.

On November 6, 2009, the House of Representatives approved the "Chemical and Water Security Act," (H.R. 2868). This was an amazing accomplishment because it marked the first time either house of Congress approved permanent and comprehensive chemical security legislation.

Next, the legislation moves to the Senate. The bill has a long way to go in the Senate and we’re going to need YOUR help every step of the way. With so many important issues vying for our Senators’ attention, we have to make sure they hear from us. We need to tell them repeatedly, that chemical security is critical and urge them to pass the legislation (at every single step of the long process)!

The chemical security bill has gotten this far. We can’t let it die in committee!! Please write your Senators and tell them to vote for the bill when it hits the Senate floor.




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