U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, today voted against HR 2868, the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009, a bill purported to improve security at chemical and water treatment facilities, but may actually result in the loss of American jobs and burdensome litigation against the Department of Homeland Security.
“I am a strong proponent of security at our chemical facilities and the Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), but I am concerned that much of this bill does not seek to bolster security. Rather, H.R. 2868 focuses on federal mandates that may force our small businesses and farms to shed American jobs, further harming our vulnerable economy,” expressed Congressman Dent.
More specifically, the legislation mandates the adoption of “inherently safer technology” (IST), a costly chemical engineering philosophy that seeks to reduce the number, amount, and form of chemicals in use at facilities. Cost of compliance with the IST provision can range from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars per facility, a cost that will be passed on to consumers. Furthermore, for the first time ever, this bill subjects the Secretary of Homeland Security to civil litigation by any uninjured person.
“IST is a subjective engineering concept that focuses on safety as opposed to security,” Congressman Dent said. “The Department does not employ any IST experts, and it doesn’t plan to hire any to meet the demands of this legislation according to DHS officials.
“But the worst part of the IST mandate, is that nowhere in the current bill is the Secretary required to consider the impact on the local economy and on the local workforce before imposing these unnecessary requirements.”
Congressman Dent noted the unfortunate irony that on a day when U.S. unemployment reached 10.2 percent, Congress was passing a bill that will saddle America’s chemical facilities – many of which are small companies – with potentially millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses.
In the Homeland Security Appropriations Act for FY 2007, Congress authorized DHS to regulate security standards at chemical facilities. DHS developed the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, which required the regulation of chemical facilities possessing certain amounts of certain dangerous chemicals. DHS is in the process of implementing CFATS. CFATS was recently extended, with the support of the Obama Administration, through the Homeland Security Appropriations Act for FY 2010. Instead of seeking a permanent extension of CFATS, H.R. 2868 will encumber DHS, along with the chemical facilities they are attempting to secure, with burdensome provisions that may do little to increase security.
Congressman Dent offered a number of amendments on the House Floor to improve H.R. 2868 and lessen the financial and economic impact on small business owners, including an amendment to extend the current CFATS regulations through October 1, 2012, as well as an amendment to remove onerous IST mandate from chemical facility security standards. Although both amendments garnered bipartisan support, neither measure passed the House.