Democrat Rollback On Chemical Security
March 16, 2007
Last year, Congress crafted compromise language that provides for the protection of the nation’s chemical facilities and the communities that surround them. This carefully constructed proposal ensured that highly sensitive security information was protected from the terrorists who seek to harm Americans through an attack on one of these facilities. It ensured that security decisions were risk-based rather than premised on an environmental standard. Now, Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to rollback this compromise.
FACT: House Democratic changes to chemical security compromise language will put more Americans at risk and will substitute environmentally-driven operations changes for risk-based and performance standards. The House language would weaken protection for these facilities in several important ways:
It would designate vulnerability assessments and site security plans as “sensitive security information,” (SSI) a lower standard than that in current law. This change, coupled with the Democrat plan to expose chemical facilities to citizen suits for noncompliance of the law, dramatically weakens the protections provided to this sensitive information. No one is denying a citizen’s right to know about their local chemical facility. A careful balance must be achieved so that the wrong information is not given to the wrong people. Current law achieves that balance. Instead, under Democrat proposals, terrorists can sue to access information regarding the vulnerability of these facilities, the very facilities we are seeking to protect from the terrorists. Democrats who claim to want to protect Americans, are in fact, putting them in harms’ way.
Finally, the Democrat changes would allow Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to dictate manufacturing decisions to chemical manufacturers. The House language maintains a provision allowing a company to choose its own means of compliance. However, by allowing DHS to reject a security plan because of a chemical or technology decision, the language essentially nullifies that flexibility. This Inherently-Safer Technologies (IST) provision gives the Federal Government authority to mandate that a private company change its manufacturing process or the chemicals that it uses. IST is an environmental concept that dates back more than a decade when the extremist environmental community was seeking bans on chlorine. After 9/11, they decided to manipulate the fears of the American public and repackage IST has the solution to all of our security concerns. This only underscores the fact that IST is not a security measure; it is a backdoor attempt at increasing the regulation of chemicals operating under the guise of security. Our country’s security decisions should not be made by environmentalists. Instead, they should be made by security experts. DHS secretary Michael Chertoff has said, “We have to be careful not to move from what is a security-based focus…into one that tires to broaden into achieving environmental ends that are unrelated to security.”