The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) criticized the Secure Chemicals Facilities Act, which would require chemical facilities to use inherently safer technology (IST) as part of chemical-site security measures. The bill, which is cosponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D–NJ), was recently reintroduced as Congress considers whether to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFAT), )which include current federal chemical-site security provisions.
CFATS are risk-based performance standards designed to ensure the security of US chemical facilities. They require covered chemical facilities to prepare security vulnerability assessments and to develop and implement site-security plans, which include measures that satisfy the identified risk-based performance standards. Although SOCMA supports CFATS, it opposes the use of IST in those provisions. IST is a conceptual framework that covers chemical-processing procedures, equipment, protection, and when feasible, the use of safer substances.
“While four previous bills have been introduced this Congress extending the current security rules, Lautenberg has chosen to advocate for costly and unnecessary adjustments to standards that are widely believed to be comprehensive and accountable,” said Bill Allmond, SOCMA’s vice-president of government relations, in an Apr. 1, 2011 SOCMA press release. In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, on Mar. 31, 2011, Allmond said that “[IST] is an elegant concept, but the reality is almost never that simple. A reduction in hazard will reduce overall risk if, and only if, that hazard is not displaced to another time or location, or results in the creation of some new hazard.” He noted that no agreed-upon methodology exists to measure whether one process is inherently safer than another process. “For all these reasons, the world’s foremost experts in IST and chemical engineering have consistently recommended against regulating inherent safety for security purposes,” he said.
SOCMA supports other legislation (HR 908) that would extend the current authority of CFATS to the Department of Homeland Security CFATS through 2017. “The need for annual reauthorization of the program has created uncertainty for facilities regulated by CFATS,” said Allmond in his written testimony. “Without the assurance of a long-term authorization of these regulations, companies run a risk of investing in costly activities today that might not satisfy regulatory standards tomorrow.”
SOCMA will continue to work with the House and Senate towards the passage of a long-term authorization of CFATS. On Apr. 13,2011, SOCMA members willy take their message directly to Congress and discuss their position with lawmakers and their staff during SOCMA Connect’s Fourth Annual Washington Fly-in.
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