Nov 09, 2009

House Passes Chemical, Water Security Legislation

Bill strengthens security at America’s chemical plants and drinking water, wastewater facilities

The House of Representatives has passed, by a vote of 230 to 193, the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009. The bill strengthens security at America's chemical plants and drinking water and wastewater facilities by establishing risk-based and reasonable security standards for these critical assets. H.R. 2868 reauthorizes the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, which is slated to expire October 2010, and improves the program in many ways, according to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. It also authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish similar security programs for drinking water and wastewater facilities.

"I am pleased that the House has acted to close the critical security gap at drinking water facilities and to strengthen security requirements for chemical facilities," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. "The Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009 will reduce the risk that chemicals used by our own chemical facilities are turned against us through terrorist attack and other intentional acts. This bill will make our country safer."

"Today the House took decisive action to secure our nation's chemical plants and drinking water facilities from a potential terrorist attack," said Rep. Edward J. Markey, chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee. "This bill will help shore up a potential vulnerability in our defenses, as the same chemicals that help purify our water and make the microchips used in our computers could potentially be turned into weapons of mass destruction.”

The Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009:

&#149 Makes the DHS CFATS program permanent: The legislation strengthens the chemical security program by requiring the review and, in some cases, the implementation of safer technologies, adding enforcement tools, and protecting the right of workers to participate in developing and implementing chemical facility security plans;

&#149 Authorizes EPA to create a risk-based, performance-based program for the water sector similar to the one established by DHS for chemical plants: This gives effect to the regulatory approach that the Obama Administration supports;

&#149 Requires the riskiest chemical facilities, drinking water facilities and water treatment works to assess and, when appropriate, implement methods to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack; and

&#149 Strengthens the enforcement of the CFATS program by allowing citizens to bring suit against the secretary of DHS for failure to perform non-discretionary obligations.