Our March 17 Webinar included a pretty full discussion about the upcoming CFATS legislation in the Senate and the House. There are several bills that have been introduced and are waiting for action. At that time we also discussed the possibility of more legislation being introduced. That happened on Thursday, March 31 when U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced two pieces of legislation that relate to chemical security and CFATS.
The "Secure Water Facilities Act" (S 711) and "Secure Chemical Facilities Act" (S 709) are co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and would include an Inherently Safer Technologies provision for the highest risk chemical and water facilities. It would require these plants to do an assessment and develop plans to use processes or chemicals that would be considered environmentally safer. These bills would not put the same burden on smaller or low-risk facilities. High-risk facilities or those in highly populated areas would be required to make changes like reducing the amount of lethal gases stored on-site or minimizing the use of volatile chlorine gas.
According to Lautenberg's office the two bills are endorsed by a broad coalition of 100 environmental health and labor groups. The news release said the legislation would:
- Require the chemical and water facilities to assess their vulnerability to attack, develop a plan to address those vulnerabilities and respond to an emergency, and provide worker training to carry out the plan.
- Require facilities using dangerous chemicals to evaluate whether the facility could reduce the consequences of an attack by, for example, using a safer chemical or process. The facility must implement those safer measures if it has been classified as one of the highest-risk facilities, implementation of safer measures is feasible, and implementation would not increase risk overall by shifting risk to another location.
- Protect sensitive security information from disclosure, while ensuring information sharing between state and local governments, first-responders, and workers.
Allow communities to have a role in ensuring local facilities comply with these regulations.
- Authorize grants to help defray the cost of assessing vulnerabilities, developing security and response plans, and implementing safer measures.
In general, the chemical industry opposes any IST provision added to CFATS. Industry insiders believe IST would be an undue burden on the industry and possibly send manufacturing off-shore, pushing up industry unemployment.
These two bills are similar to legislation introduced during the last congress by the Senator. Those bills never went to a vote.
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