Today, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced the General Duty Clarification Act of 2013, which would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue both a regulation and guidance to ensure uniform enforcement of the Clean Air Act's General Duty clause, regarding facilities that produce, handle, process, store, or distribute chemicals that are required to adopt certain procedures aimed at preventing accidental releases. The current clause is outdated and vaguely written. Cosponsors include Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

"Rules and regulations need to be uniformly applied and understandable in order to be effective, especially when it concerns safety. The General Duty Clarification Act will clarify outdated and vague language within the Clean Air Act, which the Agency inconsistently applies to penalize facilities across the country," said Vitter. "As the General Duty clause stands right now, EPA is able to manipulate the law and could even bypass Congress to create duplicate, unnecessary, and often inappropriate regulations for facility security. Our bill would protect against that."

"The EPA's ability to harass and threaten companies under the Clean Air Act's General Duty provision allows the agency to inappropriately discriminate against our nation's largest job-creators. This bill will clarify the authority of the EPA under the provision and provide transparency and uniformity to its enforcement practices to ensure that unwarranted fines and prosecutions are not allowed to continue under this Administration," said Inhofe. "I am proud to work with Rep. Pompeo and my colleagues in the Senate on this common-sense legislation to provide clarity and certainty in the law."

The EPA has never defined this vague provision of law that states facilities have a "general duty" to identify hazards which may result from a chemical release and to take "necessary steps" to prevent such releases. Even so, the Agency has used the provision to find numerous facilities in violation of the clause. Some environmental groups are urging EPA to utilize the General Duty Clause to regulate chemical site security which is outside of their jurisdiction and within the regulatory purview of the Department of Homeland Security. The General Duty Clarification Act of 2013 makes the law clear and intends to eliminate abuses.

The General Duty Clarification Act is the companion bill to H.R. 888, which was introduced in February 2013 by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.).

Click here to read the bill.