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.

read in full

Department of Homeland Security Finalizes Chemical Security Program

On April 2, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized interim chemical security regulations. The final regulations are an improvement over the proposed regulations issued in December 2006, but many weaknesses remain. In particular, DHS modified its broad interpretation of a provision regarding state preemption but did not adequately establish that states can develop rules stronger than the federal ones. The final rules do little to allay concerns regarding the lack of public accountability and access to information or the failure to require consideration of inherently safer technologies by facilities reporting to DHS.

read in full

Journalist Audit Underscores Lack of Transparency

An audit by journalist groups found that public access to Comprehensive Emergency Response Plans (CERP), as required by law, was inconsistent and unreliable around the country. Only 44 percent of the requests for the CERP were granted in full, whereas 20 percent were partially released and 36 percent were completely denied.

read in full

DHS Receives Mixed Opinions on Proposed Chemical Security Rule

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) received 89 comments, dominated by industry, in response to the proposed interim rule on chemical plant security. The rule establishes the first-ever federal chemical security program. Chemical companies and industry associations generally expressed strong support for the rule, whereas most public interest groups and government officials expressed great concern.

read in full

OMB Watch Critical of Proposed Chemical Security Rule

In response to the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) proposed interim chemical security rule, OMB Watch will submit comments to DHS that argue for increased transparency and stronger protections at thousands of facilities across the country.

read in full

Chemical Security Program Leaves the Public Vulnerable

On Dec. 28, 2006, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an interim final rule for the creation of a chemical facility security program. However, the program appears to provide little means for increasing security and shrouds important assessments in a veil of secrecy that will prevent any public accountability or oversight.

read in full

Chemical Insecurity

Last night, the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee struck a deal to attach chemical security language to the FY 2007 DHS spending bill. The language, agreed upon by Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) last week, is a retreat from stronger, bipartisan bills pending in both houses and, according to environmental groups, "turns a blind eye to removing thousands of people from harm's way with off-the-shelf technologies." News of the agreement quickly met with strong criticism from members of Congress and public interest groups.

read in full

Secretive Biodefense Legislation Moves Forward

The House and Senate are nearing a vote on legislation to authorize a new federal agency, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The agency would oversee "advanced research and development" of countermeasures to bioterrorism threats, epidemics, and pandemics, and would have broad authority to exempt information from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

read in full

Five Years Since 9/11: More Secrecy, Less Security

Monday marked the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, yet the government's efforts to secure the nation against another terrorist attack have been minimal, leaving the country's chemical plants, ports, and other installations dangerously unsecured while increasing secrecy and intrusion into civil liberties.

read in full

Safer Chemicals Provision Improves Federal Chemical Security Bill

The House Homeland Security Committee on July 27 passed what is being hailed by public interest groups as a substantially improved chemical security bill, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (H.R. 5695). The bill, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-CA), establishes security requirements for our nation's chemical facilities, something that critics charge is long overdue. The original bill, however, had serious flaws, among them failing to require companies to use safer technologies and preempting states and localities from establishing their own security programs.

read in full