The United States Congress is considering legislation to improve the safety of chemical plants. While a noble goal, this regulation has the potential to actually decrease chemical plant safety while increasing costs and destroying jobs at the same time.
Currently the proposed legislation is in a senate committee. The following summary of chemical security legislation reports that Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, may introduce a new bill on this topic.
Debate over Chemical Plant Security Moves to the Senate
By Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., April 21, 2010
Following the House’s passage of a chemical plant security bill last November, the Senate has begun to turn its attention to the issue, with subcommittee hearings held in March and multiple bills either proposed or in the works. As in the House, the focus of contention thus far in the Senate has been the possible addition of inherently safer technology (“IST”) requirements into a reauthorization of the existing Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (“CFATS”) program.
The security of chemical facilities has been a subject of increased concern since the September 11, 2001 attacks, when it became apparent that stores of hazardous chemicals are a logical target for terrorists. Members of Congress have agreed on the need for a federal chemical facility security program, but have disagreed sharply on the issue of making IST mandatory. IST refers to technological and procedural steps intended to reduce the potential for a hazardous chemical release, in contrast to security measures intended to deter sabotage of existing processes. IST measures typically involve modifying processes to reduce the quantity of hazardous chemicals used or stored, reducing temperatures or pressures, or replacing a hazardous chemical with a less hazardous one. While facilities are always free to reduce hazards in these ways, a mandatory IST approach would require facilities to examine their industrial processes to evaluate safer alternatives and would enable a government agency to compel facilities to adopt the changes that it concludes are justified.