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Industry Urging House to Approve Chemical Security Bill on Tuesday

By Douglas P. Guarino

Global Security Newswire

Search and rescue workers comb through what remains of a 50-unit apartment building (foreground) the day after an explosion at the West Fertilizer Company (background) destroyed the building on April 18, 2013, in West, Texas. The incident, which left damaged buildings for blocks in every direction, has been cited often in the debate over legislation that would extend the life of a controversial Homeland Security Program. Search and rescue workers comb through what remains of a 50-unit apartment building (foreground) the day after an explosion at the West Fertilizer Company (background) destroyed the building on April 18, 2013, in West, Texas. The incident, which left damaged buildings for blocks in every direction, has been cited often in the debate over legislation that would extend the life of a controversial Homeland Security Program. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Industry officials are urging lawmakers to approve a bill that would extend the life of a controversial chemical security program during a vote on the House floor Tuesday afternoon.

The bill, H.R. 4007, would provide a multiyear authorization to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards of the Homeland Security Department. The program is meant to help ensure that domestic industrial facilities using hazardous chemicals do not fall victim to terrorist attacks that could be catastrophic for surrounding communities.

Thus far, the program has been renewed annually through the congressional appropriations process -- a practice that both DHS and industry officials complain has led to harmful uncertainty from year to year.

"A long term authorization outside of the appropriations process will provide the regulatory consistency and operational stability to ensure the success of CFATS, while giving industry confidence in their long term capital commitments to this program," Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, wrote in a letter to House leaders today.

"Ensuring the future of this important program will also help DHS recruit and retain top talent to effectively implement CFATS," Dooley's letter, addressed to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), states.

The House bill lacks provisions that would give DHS officials the authority to require specific security upgrades at chemical facilities. Labor union officials, environmentalists and some Democrats favor such "inherently safer technology" requirements, but Republicans and industry officials oppose them.

The legislation also would not end a regulatory exemption for water treatment facilities that some Democrats and activist groups have criticized. The Obama administration released an interagency report last month urging Congress to end the exemption.

The House bill so far lacks a Senate companion, but Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are working on draft legislation. Carper chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee and Coburn is the panel's top Republican.

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