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House Passes Chemical Security Legislation with Controversial IST Mandate

November 9, 2009
The House of Representatives has approved new and stringent standards for chemical site security, pushing forth with efforts to mandate product substitution in a misguided attempt to safeguard chemical facilities against terrorist attacks.

The passage of the “Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009,” (H.R.2868) uses the security bill as a vehicle for extending new environmental laws long sought by industry critics under the guise of security. As part of the bill, lawmakers included a controversial requirement known as inherently safer technology (IST) which SOCMA has long opposed. The IST provisions in the bill were approved despite numerous attempts by lawmakers to improve the bill and with little regard to previous testimony by experts from academia, process safety organizations, and industry who all opposed an IST mandate. Until last month, DHS also long opposed mandatory IST implementation before abruptly switching its position in time for a House subcommittee hearing.

Speaking on the House floor yesterday, Homeland Security Committee Member Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), pointed out that DHS testified before Congress that they lack the technical capabilities to make decisions about IST.

“The IST provisions can create unintended consequences that could impact not only the chemical industry but also consumers,” said Bill Allmond, vice president of government relations and ChemStewards. “Furthermore, these consequences could further complicate the industry’s economic recovery.”

In some cases, specialty chemical facilities are constructed to enable manufacturing, through special equipment and processes, using specific chemistry that is required by customers or pre-approved by a regulatory agency like the Food and Drug Administration.

Allmond added that the bill runs counter to a key DHS mandate, which is infrastructure protection, by seeking to re-engineer chemical facility infrastructure rather than protect it.

The next step in the legislative process is for the bill to be considered by the Senate.

“We look forward to working with the Senate, which we expect will be more willing to work with all stakeholders than the House committees that moved the IST provisions through the chamber,” Allmond continued.

For more detailed information about SOCMA’s position on IST and to read Five Things About Chemical Security That Nobody Is Discussing, visit www.socma.com/ist.