The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) expressed “strong concern” over legislation introduced in the US Senate earlier this month regarding chemical-site security. The bill, the Secure Chemical Facilities Act (S 3599), was introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
SOCMA supports existing standards for chemical facilities being implemented by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act (CFATS). CFATS are risk-based performance standards for the security of US chemical facilities. Although the fine-chemical and chemical industries support the CFATS program, they oppose mandating the use of inherently safer technology (IST). IST is a conceptual framework that covers chemical processing procedures, equipment, protection, and when feasible, the use of safer substances.
SOCMA noted that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, who provided the keynote address at the 2010 Chemical Sector Security Summit earlier his month, voiced support for the CFATS measures. “Flexible, practical, and collaborative programs such as DHS' National Infrastructure Protection Plan, the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council, and Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), play a key role in enhancing the security and resiliency of our nation’s chemical facilities and other critical infrastructure," she said in a DHS statement.
SOCMA contends that the recently introduced Secure Chemical Facilities Act is not aligned with those measures. “Senator Lautenberg’s bill runs counter to the Secretary’s emphasis on a balanced approach to the existing CFATS program,” said SOCMA President and CEO Lawrence D. Sloan. “SOCMA appreciates the bill’s attention to the impact of its controversial provision, better known as inherently safer technology (IST), on small chemical facilities. However, IST is obviously not a common-sense mandate.”
The Lautenberg bill requires plants to assess their vulnerability and develop plans to address those vulnerabilities and requires the highest-risk facilities to put in place IST provisions. “When companies use chemicals that put thousands of lives at risk, it is essential that they find safer ways to do business,” said Lautenberg in a statement. “This is common-sense legislation that would ensure a thorough review of risk and help us move toward more secure plants and safer communities.”
SOCMA said, “the legislation is majorly flawed because it mandates implementation of a process safety concept—not a security measure—a clear definition of which cannot be agreed upon by experts and which cannot be measured,” according to the SOCMA press release. “Academia and industry experts alike have repeatedly testified against mandating IST, yet this bill ignores those warnings.”
Instead, SOCMA is supporting the Senate bill, S. 2996, which extends the CFATS provisions.