A picture of Representative Henry A. Waxman
Henry W.
Former Democrat CA 33
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    Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program Authorization and Accountability Act of 2014

    by Former Representative Henry A. Waxman

    Posted on 2014-12-11

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    WAXMAN of california in the house of representatives Thursday, December 11, 2014 Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Speaker, since before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, experts have been concerned about the vulnerability of chemical plants to attack. These facilities hold large stores of industrial chemicals which pose a safety and security risk to the American people if they are released or detonated. A recent report found that more than 134 million Americans live in the vulnerability zones around chemical facilities. I have such a facility in my district, which is a very serious concern for the surrounding community.

    These risks have not been adequately addressed, and this bill falls short of what is needed. The version of the bill before us now also includes a significant and unvetted change to the program that could make many high risk chemical facilities less secure. The self- certification provisions have not been evaluated in hearings or piloted. I am concerned about these provisions and I caution my colleagues that their implementation will require close oversight from Congress.

    But this bill is a step forward. For far too long, this important program has been authorized in the appropriations process for the Department of Homeland Security. During last year's government shutdown, the authority for this program lapsed. Looking ahead to next Congress, the risk of another lapse is too great. When we voted on a previous version of this bill in July, I expressed my hope that the Senate could improve the legislation to strengthen this important program.

    On some issues, the Senate was successful. The bill now includes an expanded role for workers and labor unions in developing site security plans and some important whistleblower protections.

    However, this bill would leave significant problems in the underlying program in place.

    The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program at the Department of Homeland Security has not been successful. The original rider that created the program blocked effective enforcement, leading to a lack of compliance. We saw the dangers of noncompliance when the West Fertilizer Company facility in West, Texas, exploded. Unfortunately, those limitations on enforcement would be preserved by this bill.

    The original statute blocked the Department from requiring measures to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack, and in the process created serious obstacles to disapproving site security plans that failed to meet the program's standards. This led to an approval process so complicated that it took more than five years for the Department to complete its review of the first facility. This bill preserves those obstacles.

    Both of these challenges may be complicated further by the new self- certification program.

    I expect this bill to pass today, and I welcome this step forward. But I call upon all of my colleagues who will be here in the next Congress to continue the important oversight of this program to provide the American people with the protection they expect and deserve.


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