WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce and Homeland Security Committees released letters to Speaker Hastert, Leader Pelosi, and House Appropriators urging the rejection of inadequate chemical security measures promoted by the chemical industry and agreed to behind closed doors by Congressional Republicans.   Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA), John Dingell (D-MI), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Hilda Solis (D-CA), all members of either the House Energy and Commerce Committee or the Homeland Security Committee sent the letter this morning.

“Key homeland security protections against chemical disasters are being swept aside in favor of a rider drafted in consultation with industry but not the Democratic Members of the relevant committees.  We are never going to close our gaping holes in homeland security if our level of security is the lowest level the industry thinks it can get away with,” said Rep. Markey.

"After a year of bipartisan negotiations to craft a bill that would truly secure our nation's chemical facilities, the American people will be saddled with another special interest bill, crafted in typical backroom Republican fashion, that will do little to improve security at our nation's chemical plants. This is just one of many shameful examples of Republicans selling out national security for big business brownie points during an election cycle at the expense of the American people, a sight that has become all too familiar during this Republican security month.” Rep. Thompson said.

"After years of doing nothing to protect Americans against the threat of an attack on a chemical facility, Republicans are now getting creative in their efforts to do the industry's bidding," said Rep. Pallone "Burying weak language in a spending bill is just a ploy to stave off real progress on chemical security."

“It is no wonder Americans have little faith left in Congress when it make deals on issues as important as securing our nation’s chemical facilities in backroom, closed door sessions,” said Rep. Solis. “We need real action to ensure America’s families are safe – not minimal standards developed by the industry itself.”

Earlier this year, the House Homeland Security Committee approved a bipartisan chemical security bill that included numerous strong provisions, including amendments authored by Democrats to allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to require high-risk facilities to implement safer technologies or processes if it is technologically and economically feasible for them to do so, and to ensure that States who adopt more stringent requirements are not pre-empted by Federal law. Instead of allowing that bill to be acted on by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the full House of Representatives, Republicans instead met behind closed doors to include inadequate, chemical industry-backed provisions in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill Conference Report which will be voted on next week.

The Republicans’ backroom deal:
    - Does not allow DHS to disapprove a facility’s security plan due to the presence or absence of any specific security measure, which effectively bars DHS from requiring facilities to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack by switching to safer technologies or processes.
    - Does not protect the rights of States to set more stringent chemical security standards.
    - Exempts large classes of dangerous chemical facilities from being subject to the oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.
    - Allows the chemical industry to maintain excessive levels of secrecy regarding its activities, including the potential shielding of information that is currently publicly available.
    - Will only end when Congress explicitly terminates the language, or 3 years after enactment, which will remove all pressure to enact comprehensive legislation in the next Congress.
    - Prevents members of the public from being able to sue chemical companies for failing to keep their facilities secure.

Copies of the both letters can be found here:

Letter - Chem Sec Homeland Sec Approp Conf Report - 9.21.06.pdf 

EC Chemical Lettter Homeland Approps.pdf 

Rep. Dingell is the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Thompson is the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Markey is a senior member of both committees and Reps. Pallone and Solis are on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

For more on Rep. Markey’s work on homeland security, please visit http://markey.house.gov. 

September 22, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein (Markey)
Jodi Seth (Dingell)
Dena Graziano (Thompson)
Andrew Souvall (Pallone)
Sonia Melendez (Solis)