Chemical Security Bill Withstanding Industry Assault

Today the House Homeland Security Committee continues its deliberations on a bill that improves security and accountability at chemical facilities. The bill, which would reauthorize and greatly enhance existing security procedures for chemical plants, has so far weathered well the repeated attacks by committee Republicans to gut it.

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Congress Working to Make Chemical Plants Safer from Attacks

The House Homeland Security Committee this week considered legislation that would greatly reduce the risks and consequences of a terrorist attack on a chemical facility. The bill would enhance and reauthorize the flawed and inadequate existing security rules that are due to expire in October. It is crucial that Congress quickly pass and the President sign this security legislation so no more time is lost while millions of people are needlessly put at risk.

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House Considers New Legislation at Chemical Security Hearing

On June 12, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials held a hearing on the current status of the chemical security program at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and considered two bills to amend the program.

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California Restores TRI Reporting for the State

When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed the California Toxic Release Inventory Act of 2007 (Assembly Bill 833) into law on Oct. 13, California became the first state to pass legislation to undo the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) December 2006 weakening of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The new state law establishes the threshold for detailed reporting at 500 pounds of a listed toxic chemical, which was the original threshold for the TRI program before EPA changed the regulations to reduce the reporting burden on companies.

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EPA Cut Corners in TRI Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came under tough scrutiny at an Oct. 4 hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials for reducing the reporting standards of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) in December 2006.

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NRC to Release Documents on Spill

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has revoked a three-year-old secrecy policy and plans to release documents from two nuclear fuel processing plants in response to congressional demands. This about-face was precipitated by a congressional inquiry into a uranium leak kept secret from the public for more than a year.

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EPA's Second Round of 9/11 Testing Falls Short

According to a Sept. 5 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) second program to test and clean building interiors contaminated by toxins from the World Trade Center (WTC) collapse was a virtual failure. The program's problems stemmed from EPA's inadequate public notification and refusal to listen to its own science experts. The GAO report also indicated that EPA was reluctant to accept cleanup responsibility according to expert recommendations. The result was a limited program grossly underutilized by the public.

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TRI Restoration Bill Passes Senate Committee

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 10-9 to approve the Toxic Right-to-Know Protection Act (S. 595) on July 31. The act would reverse a December 2006 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule change to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) that significantly reduced toxic release reporting requirements for polluting facilities.

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Baltimore Calls on Congress for More Chemical Security

On July 16, the Baltimore City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting federal chemical security legislation that would require, when feasible, the use of safer chemicals and technologies.

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Setback on Chemical Security

The effort to establish stronger chemical security measures suffered a significant setback the week of May 21 with the loss of a provision from the Iraq supplemental spending bill that would have prohibited the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from preempting state law on matters of chemical security. In order to galvanize support for comprehensive chemical security reform, a group of public interest and environmental organizations wrote to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection. The letter encouraged the members to continue their work on ensuring strong chemical security protections.

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