OCTOBER 1, 2009: MARKEY STATEMENT AT HEARING ON CHEMICAL FACILITY ANTI-TERRORISM ACT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, issued the following statement at a hearing on the the Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2009 and the Drinking Water System Security Act of 2009:

“I come from a district that was home to some of the 9-11 terrorists before they launched their attacks – they walked in our streets and rehearsed their mission.   The September 11 attacks demonstrated that America’s very strengths – its technology – could be turned into weapons of mass destruction to be used against us.  We have spent much of the past eight years trying to reduce the opportunities for terrorists to exploit our vulnerabilities. 

 

“Since 9-11, Congress has enacted legislation to secure the aviation, maritime, rail, mass transit, nuclear energy and other sectors.  But what we have yet to do is act on comprehensive legislation to secure the facilities that make or store dangerous chemicals.  Instead, we have relied on the incomplete and inadequate legislative language that was inserted into a 2006 Appropriations bill behind closed doors that amounted to little more than a long run-on sentence.

 

“The chemical sector represents the best of American technological might – its products help to purify our water, make the microchips used in our computers, cell phones and military technologies, refine our oil, and grow our food.  But these same chemicals could also be turned into a weapon of mass destruction, something we were reminded of last week when we learned of a disrupted terrorist plot to turn hydrogen peroxide purchased in Colorado into a bomb for use in New York.

 

“Yet the incomplete 2006 legislation that gave the Department of Homeland Security interim authority to regulate chemical facilities included several glaring security loopholes:

 

  • It exempted all drinking and waste water facilities
  • It exempted all maritime facilities
  • It prevented the Department from requiring any specific security measure at any facility.  So if there was a hole in a fence, DHS couldn’t order that it be fixed.  And if there was a cost-effective alternative to a particular chemical or process that greatly would reduce the risk the facility posed to the surrounding community, DHS couldn’t order that either and
  • It prevented citizens living around these facilities from being able to ensure that regulations were being met or enforced. 

 

“At the beginning of this Congress, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson agreed on the need to quickly act to comprehensively and permanently ensure the security of all facilities containing dangerous chemicals.  The Chairmen agreed to work together on two separate pieces of legislation:

o       First, we would craft comprehensive chemical security legislation to require the Department of Homeland Security to build on the good work it has already begun, but do so in a manner that closed the loopholes included in the interim authority Congress provided several years ago.  The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Security Act of 2009 was introduced following 5 months of bipartisan Energy and Commerce and Homeland Security staff negotiations, and has the support of a wide range of labor and environmental organizations.

o       Second, we would craft legislation to provide EPA with enhanced authority to ensure the security of drinking water facilities in recognition of the unique public health role these facilities play in providing a safe supply of drinking water. The Drinking Water System Security Act of 2009, which is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has the support of the environmental and labor communities and also the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, whose member utilities provide safe drinking water to more than 125 million Americans.

 

“Though the two pieces of legislation provide authority to two different Agencies, their intent and purpose is very similar:

o       The bills require EPA and DHS to coordinate efforts with one another to minimize duplication of effort as they develop regulations, assign chemical facilities to one of four risk-based tiers and implement the bills’ requirements.

o       The bills require each high-risk facility to assess whether it could use safer processes or technologies, and provide authority to ensure that the highest-risk facilities do so if it is economically and technologically possible.

o       The bills provide for robust protection of sensitive information, ensure that facility workers are adequately trained and involved in developing security plans, and that funds are available to implement the program and assist facilities with compliance.

o       We have also ensured that whistleblower protections for employees and the ability for citizens to file suit against either the Department or facilities that fail to comply with the law are included.

 

“As we move towards mark-up of these bills, I want to acknowledge those who have assisted us greatly.

 

o       The minority staff provided us with extensive input over the past months which resulted in numerous improvements to both bills. 

o       The Obama Administration has worked diligently to provide us with technical assistance.

o       The Blue-Green coalition has always been available to share its insights.

o       And industry stakeholders, particularly the American Chemistry Council, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, and CropLife America which have been generous and substantive with their time and expertise, have helped us to better understand their viewpoints.

o       I assure you all that we will continue to work with you to address your concerns and further improve the legislation.

 

“Thank you all for attending today, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.”

 

 

 

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