WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today applauded passage of chemical security provisions included in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations conference bill. Since becoming Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the EPW Committee has twice passed chemical security legislation in Committee. Many of the provisions included in the appropriations conference bill are based upon previous legislation before the EPW Committee. Senator Inhofe worked closely with his Senate colleagues to reach a compromise to ensure passage of a chemical security bill this year.
“The American people are safer today thanks to chemical security legislation passed last night in the United States Senate,” Senator Inhofe said. “As chairman of the EPW Committee, I have made national security my top priority and consistently supported reasonable chemical security legislation that provides DHS with the authority it needs to protect chemical facilities from terrorists without extraneous environmental mandates. I believe this compromise language achieves that balance.
“I am pleased that this language specifically excludes water utilities from coverage and clarifies DHS does not have the authority to regulate chemicals. To have included water utilities in this language would have imposed an enormous unfunded mandate on our local partners and the authority to regulate chemicals has been expressly given to EPA and other departments and agencies through our nation’s environmental laws.
“I believe the conference language achieves what those of us who have been working on this issue for years have been trying to do---it provides strong authorities to DHS to reasonably regulate private sector entities without being hijacked by concepts inappropriate in a national security debate.”
SENATE FLOOR STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF CHEMICAL SECURITY LEGISLATION
Mr. President, I rise in support of the chemical security provisions included in the DHS appropriations conference bill. I have worked on this issue since 2002 and have always supported reasonable chemical security legislation that provides DHS with the authority it needs to protect chemical facilities from terrorists without overreaching. I believe this compromise language achieves that balance.
I am pleased that this language specifically excludes water utilities from coverage and focuses the efforts of DHS on private chemical companies. The Nation’s drinking water and wastewater systems are arms of local government, not for-profit industries. We in Congress recognized the fundamental difference between the for-profit private sector and local government entities when we passed the Unfunded Mandates Act. To have included water utilities in this language would have imposed an enormous unfunded mandate on our local partners in violation of that Act.
Many here in Washington assume that local governments need to be forced to protect their citizens. As a former mayor, I can tell you that is simply not true. Local water utilities have been making investments in security consistently since 9/11 and continue to do so. I have offered a bill on wastewater facility security that provides tools, incentives and rewards, not mandates, for local governments to continue to upgrade security. My legislation passed the Environment and Public Works last Congress with a bipartisan vote and again this Congress by voice vote. However, this week, for the second straight Congress, when I tried to bring the measure before the full Senate, the minority objected even to its consideration. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle are holding this legislation up because it does NOT impose needless mandates and does NOT include extraneous environmental provisions.
For these same reasons, many will rise in opposition to the chemical security compromise language included in the conference report. They will argue that the bill needs to allow the federal government to tell companies how to manufacture their products by requiring facilities to switch the chemicals they use or change their operating practices. This concept, known as “inherently safer technology,” is not, nor has it ever been, about security. IST is an environmental concept that dates back more than a decade when the extremist environmental community 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.
I find it very interesting that those arguing most vehemently for IST in security legislation are NOT security experts, but rather, environmental groups. 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.
The legislation before us does not include these extraneous environmental mandates but instead properly focuses efforts on security. The language explicitly clarifies that the new regulatory authorities given to the Department of Homeland Security do NOT include any authorities to regulate the manufacture, distribution, use, sale, treatment or disposal of chemicals. These authorities have been properly provided to the US Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies and departments under numerous environmental and workplace safety laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and a host of others.
I believe the conference language achieves what those of us who have been working on this issue for years have been trying to do---it provides strong authorities to DHS to reasonably regulate private sector entities without being hijacked by extraneous concepts that have no place in the security debate.