Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Joe Lieberman (D-CT) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist today, urging him to schedule the Chemical Security Anti-Terrorism Act for a floor vote prior to the August recess. The bill, which was unanimously approved by the Senate Homeland Security Committee on June 15, would give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to set and enforce security standards at the nation’s at-risk chemical facilities.
The text of the letter is included below:
The Honorable William H. Frist
Dear Majority Leader Frist:
On June 15, 2006, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted 15-0 to approve the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, S. 2145, landmark legislation that would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to regulate the security of the nation’s at-risk chemical facilities. We write to ask that you schedule consideration of the bill on the Senate floor prior to the August recess. Although earlier attempts to pass chemical security legislation foundered on partisan or ideological divides, this legislation was crafted on a bipartisan basis and unanimously reported out of our Committee after a vigorous and productive markup.
Nearly five years have passed since the attacks of September 11, and yet the Department still lacks the authority to regulate the security of the nation’s most dangerous chemical facilities. We know that terrorists have contemplated targeting chemical plants as a way to create maximum damage. The Congressional Research Service has reported that, during the 1990s, international and domestic terrorists alike tried to use explosives to blow up chemical manufacturing and storage facilities near population centers. In 2002, the Justice Department described the threat posed by terrorists to chemical facilities as “both real and credible” for the foreseeable future. The time is long overdue to enact and implement chemical security legislation.
The Administration is asking for the authority to regulate the highest risk chemical plants for security. The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act takes a fair, flexible, risk-based and performance-based approach to chemical security. The DHS Secretary would have the authority to create a list of high-risk chemical facilities to regulate for security, and these facilities must conduct vulnerability assessments, create security plans and updated emergency response plans, and implement security measures. In order to keep sensitive information from falling into the hands of terrorists, this legislation exempts protected information, such as vulnerability assessments and security plans, from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, and State and local laws. Our legislation recognizes the efforts and investments in security already undertaken by many in the chemical sector, and directs the Secretary to build upon existing security.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has taken the first step by approving this bill, and we ask that you schedule consideration of the bill on the Senate floor.
Susan M. Collins Joseph I. Lieberman
Chairman Ranking Member