The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy took testimony on CFATS legislation H.R. 908 on Thursday, March 31. As we have discussed this legislation was recently introduced by subcommittee vice chair Tim Murphy (R-PA) and ranking member Gene Green (D-TX). It would extend the current CFATS legislation until 2017.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) commended Murphy and Green for the bi-partisan effort to extend the CFATS legislation. He pointed out that the Department of Homeland Security has already spent $253 million on the program and that extension of CFATS would ensure that investment for years to come. Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) opened up the hearing and said that while the subcommittee had sole jurisdiction over the Safe Drinking Water Act and the existing drinking water security program at EPA, he believes this is a separate subject and that the committee should look at it at a later time. He felt it was most important to take on the immediate need for the extension of the existing CFATS program.
The witness list for the hearing included the following:
The Honorable Rand Beers ─ Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Andrew K. Skipp ─ President and chief executive officer of Hubbard-Hall Inc.
David Tabar, CSP ─ Global director of safety on behalf of the American Coatings Association
Bill Allmond ─ Vice president, government relations for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA)
James S. Frederick ─ Assistant director, health, safety and environment for United Steelworkers on behalf of the Blue-Green Alliance
The industry organizations including SOCMA urged the committee for a quick and simple extension of the current CFATS legislation. Bill Allmond of SOCMA reiterated the organization’s written testimony and reasons for the need for extension:
The need to annually renew CFATS legislation causes uncertainty for the chemical industry and facilities. Without the assurance of long-term authorization facilities face the prospect of investing in expensive programs that might change and devalue that investment.
Letting the program be fully implemented will allow DHS and the industry to fully assess the effectiveness of the program and make the necessary adjustments if needed.
SOCMA's Allmond also advised lawmakers not to take any more time discussing an Inherently Safer Technologies (IST) provision for CFATS, saying that this would create “substantial unintended consequences” for the chemical industry.
SOCMA also committed to working with both the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees on long-term CFATS authorization. In fact, on April 13, 2011 SOCMA members will take their message to Congress and discuss their position during SOCMA Connects 4th Annual Washington Fly-in.
The National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) also submitted testimony during this hearing. NACD urged the subcommittee to extend the legislation without any IST provision. Andrew K. Skipp president and chief executive officer of Hubbard-Hall Inc. and NACD’s chairman of the board, said " . . . (IST) could be the final straw to put some companies out of business, which would result in further job losses."
There was also some interesting testimony by Under Secretary, Rand Beers. I’ll be giving you some more information from his testimony and of course I will keep you updated as there is additional news.
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