Within the Clean Air Act's Accidental Release section, there is a broad and confusing provision known as the "General Duty Clause." This clause states that facilities using or possessing chemicals--such as oil and gas producers, refineries, chemical manufacturers and others--have a "general duty" to identify hazards which may result from a chemical release and to take "necessary steps" to prevent such releases.
EPA has found numerous facilities in violation of the Clean Air Act's General Duty Clause, even though EPA has yet to define this provision in any detail or issue a regulation under it. In addition, environmental special interest groups have urged EPA to utilize the General Duty Clause to regulate chemical site security, a clear encroachment on the Department of Homeland Security's jurisdiction.
Congressman Mike Pompeo (KS-04) today introduced a new bill, The General Duty Clarification Act, which would require EPA to clarify the General Duty Clause before using it again. The legislation has the support of 17 business trade associations, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Pompeo issued the following statement at the time the bill was introduced:
"Today, I'm taking a proactive and commonsense step to provide greater clarity to our nation's chemical safety laws by resolving the confusion surrounding the General Duty Clause. This legislation will provide companies that use chemicals in their operations with the certainty needed to comply with this law.
"I'm encouraging my colleagues to support the General Duty Clarification Act so that companies can continue their work in safety and with the regulatory and economic certainty they need to keep their workers employed," stated Pompeo.
The General Duty Clarification Act is a commonsense effort to enhance chemical process safety and risk management by providing facilities with greater certainty in complying with the Clean Air Act's Accidental Release provisions.
Pompeo's General Duty Clarification Act Would:
Require EPA to complete a rulemaking process before finding any facility in violation of the General Duty Clause.
Require definitions of "extremely hazardous substance," "appropriate hazard assessment techniques," and "design and maintain a safe facility" in any General Duty Clause regulation.
Require EPA to issue guidelines to ensure that EPA enforcement procedures are uniform across its Regions.
Clarify that EPA's mission is environmental protection, not homeland security, by prohibiting EPA from regulating chemical facility security under the General Duty Clause, reinforcing exclusive jurisdiction under the Department of Homeland Security.