Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 16, 2006

US News on the chemical security bill

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Infrastructure Protection — by Christian Beckner on January 16, 2006

US News has a good synopsis of the state of play on the Hill for the chemical security bill in its latest issue. The article is notable for DHS officials’ frank admission that the self-regulatory approach is insufficient:

Robert Stephan, a DHS assistant secretary who oversees chemical facilities, says a small minority of plants won’t let DHS officials on their premises and many more prohibit them from leaving with any written notes. The American Chemistry Council, the leading industry group, says its 2,000 chemical facilities have invested nearly $3 billion in security since 9/11 to adhere to an industry-developed set of voluntary security measures. But Sal DePasquale, a former security official with Georgia-Pacific Corp., who helped craft the code, calls it “window dressing.” He says investments in cameras, fencing, and network security are “a sorry joke” compared with the highly armed teams that guard nuclear plants. DHS estimates 20 percent of the roughly 300 highest-risk plants aren’t even signed up for a voluntary program.

The article also reiterates earlier commentary that two key points of contention when the bill is brought up in committee next month will be the language pertaining to the use of safer, substitute chemicals, and the question of whether states are allowed to set tougher standards than the federal government.

My take is that the current language in the bill – flexible for industry on the safer chemicals issue, but allowing states to set tougher standards – is a fair and sensible compromise that will substantial improve chemical security. It’s time for all involved parties to put the national interest over their narrow self-interest. Any further efforts to meddle with this bill and delay its passage put the nation at grave and unnecessary risk.

The clock is ticking.

The full bill can be found here. And my previous posts on the bill are found here, here, here, and here.

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2 Comments »

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Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive »

February 26, 2006 @ 9:55 pm

[...] Time Magazine has an important story out today that looks at the Dubai ports deal in the context of broader efforts to secure private sector infrastructure since 9/11. It focuses on the issue of chemical plant security, a topic that I’ve been harping on constantly in recent months: Today only about 1,100 of the nation’s 15,000 biggest plants participate in the voluntary security program. Even Bush loyalists are worried about the vulnerability that remains. “Not all chemical sites are good partners,” said Asa Hutchinson, a former top Homeland Security official, at a recent chemical-industry gathering. “Some of the top-tier sites will not let Homeland Security inside the fence.” [...]

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » DHS issues draft chemical security regs

December 29, 2006 @ 12:38 am

[...] 3. State law preemption. DHS interprets Sec. 550 as giving them the mandate to block the enforcement of state laws (such as the one on the books in New Jersey) on chemical facility security, a provision that has already earned a strident rebuke from Sen. Collins. Throughout the debate over the past year, I’ve argued that states should be allowed to set tougher regulations consistent with principles of federalism, and I believe it’s a mistake for DHS to block their ability to do so. [...]

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