U.S. chemical officials oppose new anti-terrorism legislation

Officials in the chemical sector voiced opposition on Friday against further legislative changes to federal rules that govern anti-terrorism security at production facilities.

The officials said that there was no need for a tougher security mandate just two weeks after Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced a bill that would employ inherently safer technology measures to reduce vulnerability and off-site consequences at chemical facilities that could be at risk for terrorism, ICIS reports.

"There is currently no credible threat to the chemicals sector or changes that justify a heavier hand by the federal government," Bill Allmond, the vice president for government relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, said, according to ICIS.

The Secure Chemical Facilities Act and the Secure Water Facilities Act would increase the security regulations currently in place under the 2005 Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards. The statute sets anti-terrorism security standards for chemical plants, but it gives facility owners the ability to decide what security measures meet the department's standards.

Lautenberg said that the new pieces of legislation would reduce the risk posed to communities that live near chemical, wastewater and drinking water facilities.

"The risk is great for millions of Americans living in the shadow of the thousands of chemical plants and water treatment facilities across America," Lautenberg said, ICIS reports. "These plants provide valuable services, but they also pose significant threats. In New Jersey and our region, more than 12 million people live within proximity of a high-risk plant, and a catastrophic accident or terrorist attack would have devastating consequences. We need to pass my legislation to require facilities to thoroughly review risk and help us move toward more secure plants and safer communities. Hundreds of plants have already switched to safer and more secure chemicals and processes, and this common-sense legislation would build on these achievements and increase safety nationwide."

Allmond said that SOCMA opposes Lautenberg's chemical facilities bill because the existing security measures under CFATS have already proven sufficient.

"(Existing security measures) have repeatedly been deemed appropriate and sufficient by congressional members in both parties in both chambers over multiple Congresses," Allmond said, according to ICIS. "(Additional security measures) have been considered and rejected by previous Congresses."

Allmond said that SOCMA supports a multi-year extension of the existing CFATS without significant changes.