Good morning. Today, the Committee will be examining a concept called Inherently Safer technology and its relation, if any, to making chemical sites more secure against terrorist acts. Last week, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a markup on S. 2145 a bill to require heightened security at our nation’s chemical sites. During that markup, the subject of IST was hotly debated. An amendment to require IST was wisely voted down by a bipartisan vote of 11-5. Despite this defeat, I am certain this environmental concept will continue to be debated in the context of security, thus our hearing today remains important.
IST is essentially the idea of giving the federal government authority to mandate that a private company change its manufacturing process or the chemicals that they use. We will hear today from witnesses about how IST applies in the real world. What it can do and what it cannot.
In the wake of 9-11, there was a realization that chemical facilities, which are critical to our nation’s economy, could be targets for terrorism. Since then, the Bush Administration has made a determined effort to protect our nation’s critical infrastructure against terrorists who aim to harm us. Congress, too, has acted by enacting into law the Marine Transportation Security Act, the Bioterrorism Act, and a comprehensive nuclear security package that was passed out of this committee. Congress also created the Department of Homeland Security vesting it with power and authority to protect the nation’s infrastructure. DHS has worked diligently and quickly to address the nation’s security issues. In the chemical sector, they have deployed teams of counter terrorism specialists to each identified high-risk chemical facility to work with management, local first responders and law enforcement, states and other federal agencies to assess and address the security needs. DHS has also created several tools to help ALL chemical facilities regardless of whether they represent high-risk locations. This all means that chemical facilities are more protected and we are all indeed safer than we were 5 years ago.
This committee has twice tried to move legislation to require certain chemical plants to upgrade their security against terrorist acts -- a move strongly supported by the Administration and DHS. Each time, we have been sidetracked by the insistence of some that any such legislation must include allowing DHS to mandate IST. This is an idea that is not supported by DHS, the nation’s premier security experts.
The idea of IST predates 9/11 and has never been about security. IST is an environmental concept that dates back more than a decade when the extremist environmental community, Greenpeace and others, were seeking bans on chlorine – the chemical that is used to purify our nation’s water. It was only after 9/11 that they decided to play upon the fears of the nation and repackage IST as a panacea to all of our security problems.
Of course I do not view Greenpeace as any sort of authority on security issues – I prefer to stick to the real security experts. And the real security experts at DHS have been crystal clear that they do not support IST requirements. DHS Secretary Chertoff has said: “We have to be careful not to move from what is a security-based focus…into one that tries to broaden into achieving environmental ends that are unrelated to security.”
IST is not a “thing” that can be readily defined in legislation and then measured and regulated. It is a philosophy of safe manufacturing that translates into a complicated, interrelated set of site and community-specific decisions made by engineers and safety experts. We will hear from these very engineers today.
What the security experts at DHS have said that they support and need from Congress is a law that requires facilities to achieve a level of security. They want a performance standard set by DHS that allows for industry to decide how to reach it.
Over the past 5 years, industry has also taken great strides to protect their facilities and they did this voluntarily, in absence of a mandate to do so. For example, the Center of American Progress, who is testifying today, recently noted that 284 facilities in 47 states examined their processes and made what the report characterized as IST-like changes. This proves my point; though I doubt that is what you had in mind. These companies did not operate under a federal regulation when they made the changes. They did a business case study of their operations and made their decisions weighing various factors. Despite what some interest groups would have us believe, chemical companies do not want an attack on their assets anymore than we do. They do not need the federal government coming in and telling them specifically how to manufacture products. Government’s role is to direct them to make their facilities secure and help them by providing the guidance and tools to do it but not stifle innovation and economic opportunity by dictating to them how to it.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.