WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee and author of the amendment to boost chemical security, released the following statement on the passage of the Chemical Security bill:

"Reducing the impact of a terrorist attack on high risk chemical plants that could kill thousands of Americans is one of the most important responsibilities of this committee.  It's time that we force high-risk chemical facilities to use every option available to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack on the communities surrounding them."

The use of Inherently Safer Technologies (IST) addresses the security of chemical facilities in a fundamental way: by eliminating, reducing or altering the use of dangerous chemicals on a site, the site itself will be less likely to be a terrorist target. For example, a site that stores a dangerous chemical that could kill thousands by forming a toxic cloud on release is an enticing target for terrorists. If the plant can change to a less dangerous chemical, or smaller amounts or a less hazardous form of the chemical, the site ceases to become a target and the risk to the surrounding population is dramatically reduced.

The Markey amendment reduces the burdens on non-high-risk chemical facilities, while still allowing the Secretary to require IST in certain circumstances. The new amendment will only place mandatory IST assessment and implementation requirements on high risk facilities. If a high-risk chemical facility submits an assessment of IST that concludes that it is unable to implement any such method, the Secretary can then disagree with the chemical company by finding that the facility’s change to a safer alternative would: (1) significantly reduce the risk of death, injury, or serious adverse effects to human health, or the environment resulting from a terrorist release; (2) can feasibly be incorporated into the operation of the facility; or (3) would not impair the ability of the owner or operator of the facility to continue its business. If the Secretary makes this determination, the facility has the right to appeal the decision to a panel consisting of members of the chemical industry, DHS, other federal agencies, and outside security experts. The panel can side with the company, or it can issue recommendations to the company that the Secretary can enforce by issuing orders directing the facility to comply.

This compromise will both allow the Secretary to require high risk chemical facilities to switch to safer alternatives, but at the same time not be overly burdensome because only the subset of high risk facilities that the secretary finds can make the change would be affected, and they would have some recourse to a panel of experts to ensure that the Secretary has not made an improper determination.

It could ultimately result in cost-savings for companies, because once the changes are made many facilities could become lower-risk, with fewer security requirements such as security guards to pay for. 

August 3, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein