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Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, the issue of chemical plant security is obviously a very vital one. It's one that has to be addressed. It's an issue which certainly since September 11 is more vital than ever. That is why, in 2006, the Homeland Security Committee, when I was chairman working across the aisle, worked long and hard to enact landmark legislation. There was much negotiation. There was much debate. We covered issues such as preemption and inherently safer technology.

Legislation was put in place, and that is the basis upon which the Department has been acting for the past 3 years. And this legislation that we enacted then is in the process of being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security. In fact, the Department, itself, asked for a 1-year extension. That was voted on in the appropriations bill last month, which I strongly supported. As far as I know, the administration has not asked for this legislation, and I'm not aware of any statement of support that they've sent up in support of it.

But before I get to that, let me just commend the chairman, Mr. Thompson, the Chair of the subcommittee, Ms. Jackson-Lee, and the ranking member of the subcommittee, Mr. Dent, because even though we are going to have differences during this debate today, I want to emphasize the fact that this was done very fairly, very openly, and with a tremendous spirit of cooperation from your side of the aisle and I hope from ours as well. The differences today are very honest ones, but I want to emphasize the level of cooperation that existed throughout this process.

I am, however, opposed to the legislation because I believe it is going to create confusion and undue cost. It is going to cost jobs, and it's going to raise taxes. It gives far too much credibility to IST, or inherently safer technology, which is a concept, yet this concept will have, I believe, a very stifling effect on the private sector. We should keep in mind that we're not just talking about large chemical plant facilities, but we're also talking about institutions such as colleges and hospitals which will have to incur these costs.

The current law is working. And I asked the chairman this during the time of the debate when it was in the committee, what is the rush to move it through? And when I say ``rush,'' obviously, if it had to be done, we should do it immediately, we should do it yesterday. But the fact is that the Department did not ask for this extension, did not ask for these changes. I believe that we took a good concept, an admirable concept of enhancing chemical plant security, and have allowed concepts and ideas regarding the environment, regarding certain pet projects, and allowed that to, I believe, have too large an influence on this bill.

There is another aspect of this bill which has been added, and that's the concept of civil lawsuits against the Department. I know Mr. McCaul, in the debate later, is going to offer an amendment on this issue. But any fair reading of the testimony of the Department at the hearing we held on this legislation made it clear that they did not support this language regarding the civil lawsuits.

Quite frankly, with all the work the Department of Homeland Security has to do, with the difficulty there is in bringing all of these thousands of entities into compliance with the law, I believe the last thing they need right now is to be subjected to civil lawsuits where there would virtually be no limitations on who could bring those lawsuits. My understanding is that the person doesn't even have to be a citizen to bring a lawsuit under this or live in the State where the facility is located.

So, Mr. Chairman, this is a bridge too far. This is a rush to judgment. Rather than work with the carefully crafted and thought-out legislation that we adopted in a bipartisan way 3 years ago, we are now changing it--and changing again--without a request from the Obama administration. We have language in this legislation which was clear the administration opposed at the time of the debate on the bill when it was before the committee. So I strongly urge, reluctantly, that the legislation be voted down.

But in doing that, let me also say, Mr. Chairman, that there are a large number of organizations opposed to this legislation, such as the American Farm Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, the American Trucking Association. I will place into the Record the letter which was sent by a group of these organizations in opposition to the legislation, H.R. 2868.

Mr. Chairman, let me just conclude--and by the way, I will be asking Mr. Dent to manage the balance of the time on our side. I would ask those on the other side to go easy on Mr. Dent; he is suffering from trauma. His team, the Phillies, after being lucky last year, have gone back to their usual ways and they were defeated last night. I give him credit for coming out of his bed, from coming out from underneath the covers to be here today to take part in this debate. So especially I would ask the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pascrell) who has a talent for going for the jugular, you can do it to me, but please go easy on Mr. Dent today if you would. And I'm sure the chairman concurs in the sympathy we feel for the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

Mr. Chairman, on a serious note, we started work on this legislation in good faith. That good faith continues. But I strongly believe, and others on our side do, that the extreme environmental language in the bill is going to tie the hands of the Homeland Security Secretary with unrelated costly and burdensome provisions.

Congress has granted the President's request for a 1-year extension. We should let the Department of Homeland Security continue its work. I believe that moving this legislation forward will hurt the Department, will hurt small businesses, and will not improve the security of these facilities.

November 4, 2009.
Speaker, House of Representatives, Capitol Building, Washington, DC.
Republican Leader, House of Representatives, Capitol Building, Washington, DC.

DEAR SPEAKER PELOSI AND REPUBLICAN LEADER BOEHNER: We write to you today to express our opposition to H.R. 2868, the ``Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009.'' Despite the changes made to this legislation in the Energy and Commerce and Homeland Security Committees, we continue to oppose the bill due to the detrimental impact it will have on national security and economic stability.

Specifically, we strongly object to the Inherently Safer Technology (IST) provisions of this legislation that would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to mandate that businesses employ specific product substitutions and processes. These provisions would be significantly detrimental to the progress of existing chemical facility security regulations (the ``CFATS'' program) and should not be included in this legislation. DHS should not be making engineering or business decisions for chemical facilities around the country. It should be focused instead on making our country more secure and protecting American citizens from terrorist threats. Decisions on chemical substitutions or changes in processes should be made by qualified professionals whose job it is to ensure safety at our facilities.

Furthermore, forced chemical substitutions could simply transfer risk to other points along the supply chain, failing to reduce risk at all. Because chemical facilities are custom-designed and constructed, such mandates would also impose significant financial hardship on facilities struggling during the current economic recession. Some of these forced changes are estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars per facility. Ultimately, many facilities would not be able to bear this expense.

Thank you for taking our concerns into account as the House of Representatives continues to consider the ``Chemical Water and Security Act of 2009.'' We stand ready to work with Congress towards the implementation of a responsible chemical facility security program.

Agricultural Retailers Association American Farm Bureau Federation American Forest & Paper Association; American Petroleum Institute; American Trucking Associations; Chemical Producers and Distributors Association; Consumer Specialty Products Association; The Fertilizer Institute; Institute of Makers of Explosives; International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses; International Liquid Terminals Association; International Warehouse Logistics Association; National Agricultural Aviation Association; National Association of Chemical Distributors; National Association of Manufacturers; National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry; National Mining Association; National Oilseed Processors Association; National Paint and Coatings Association; National Pest Management Association; National Petrochemical and Refiners Association; National Propane Gas Association; North American Millers' Association; Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association; Petroleum Marketers Association of America; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; USA Rice Federation.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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