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Chemical Security

Senate panel affirms current rules for safeguarding chemical facilities

by Glenn Hess
August 2, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 31

The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee last week unanimously approved industry-backed legislation that would retain the current federal program for safeguarding U.S. chemical facilities against a terrorist attack.

The panel adopted an amendment by Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) that would extend the existing Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) by three years to 2013 and give companies and the Department of Homeland Security time to fully implement the current program, without altering the security requirements. CFATS expires in October.

“This was a vote of confidence in existing chemical security regulations that address the need to protect chemical facilities and their ability to provide products and jobs critical to our nation’s economy,” says Calvin M. Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group.

Critics of the CFATS program denounced lawmakers for rejecting a plan approved by the House of Representatives last November that would empower DHS to order the most dangerous facilities to switch to less toxic chemicals or safer processes if feasible and cost-effective.

“It’s clear that the senators voting for the Collins bill would rather wait for a disaster before they will lift a finger to prevent one,” says Rick Hind, legislative director of Greenpeace, an environmental group.

With the midterm elections approaching, however, congressional aides say it is doubtful that chemical security legislation will clear Congress this year. Instead, they say, lawmakers will most likely extend CFATS for another year through the appropriations process and revisit the issue in 2011.


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