Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today in the Environment Committee on Inherently Safer Technologies. Attempting to change internal manufacturing processes to use and produce products that are less of a risk to the environment is a longstanding goal of environmental stakeholders. It is only natural that the Environment Committee review this latest reincarnation of this environmental issue.
• Proposals mandating so-called inherently safer technologies (IST) in order to avoid risk to the environment are not new. Bills have been around for many Congresses, including those championed by our colleague from New Jersey.
• After the tragic events of 9/11, environmental stakeholders saw an opportunity to dust off their IST bills. Indeed, earlier versions of legislation with IST mandates consisted of nothing more than those old environmental bills with the addition of the words “homeland security” sprinkled here and there.
• It was a bad idea then and it is a bad idea now. Not only is it bad policy, but it is most likely an impossible policy to implement in any successful way.
• Advocates throw out casual examples as if there one or two simple examples that cover everything. “It’s just like getting rid of chlorine at water treatment plants,” they say. “It’s simple and no big deal.” However, it is a big deal, if not an overwhelmingly impossible deal.
• Our modern life depends upon hundreds of thousands of industrial processes to produce the products we need for safe, healthy and prosperous lives. Medicines that save lives, fertilizers that help feed nations, even simple things such as laundry baskets and Tupperware don’t just grow on trees. They are made with complex industrial processes using chemicals that are sometimes dangerous or hazardous.
• Manufacturing processes differ not only from sector to sector or product to product, but from plant to plant. How do we imagine that the government or legal system would know how to operate these industrial plants better than the plant managers themselves?
• Some proposals would include a review of alternatives using inherently safer technologies. How could we ever imagine that a government bureaucrat would have the expertise to review these operations. How could someone far away in Washington be able to review a report and say that product A made on line B in plant C in middle America town D should have been made a different way?
• And even if they could, how would they conduct thousands of those complex reviews and make thousands of those decisions across our massive economy? And even if they could do that, how would they know that alternatives they might recommend as inherently safer technologies were affordable, or would not cause plant closures or lost jobs? Would they even care?
• Other bills impose a general duty to employ inherently safer technologies. Is this something we want to leave up to attorneys to argue over, or sue over? How many countless billions would be forced to be spent to avoid such a legal liability, even if the risk of danger is remote? How many vital products would disappear from the market over liability fears? Even if producers are fully complying with the numerous health, safety, and security regulations already on the books?
• Yes, we must examine IST calls in the context of regulations that are already on the books, already generating reports, already informing responders, and already forcing security changes.
• Operators responsible for safety are already taking action.
Local governments charged with response are already taking action. Organizations representing industries are already taking action. Federal agencies are already taking action. Congressional committees are already taking action. Indeed, the Senate Committee charged with Homeland Security just rejected IST mandates as untenable.
• I am delighted that the Committee will hear testimony on just how impossible this idea is from a fellow Missourian. Charlie Cotts was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm in Saline County, Missouri. Charlie is now with the Missouri Farmers Association, a regional farm and supply cooperative representing 45,000 farmers in Missouri and surrounding states.
• Charlie is here today representing the Agricultural Retailers Association. Charlie is the face of our farmers who bring food to the market - food we find in our grocery stores, in our pantries, and on our dinner plate. He has first-hand insight into how broadly and how deeply a fundamental and comprehensive mandate such as IST would effect all of our daily lives.
• I thank him for joining us here today and I thank my colleagues for their indulgence.