API endorses homeland security cabinet legislation

Maureen Lorenzetti
Washington Editor

HOUSTON, Nov. 20 -- The American Petroleum Institute Wednesday endorsed congressional efforts to create a new Department of Homeland Security, the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s.

"The No. 1 imperative has been for the federal government to provide coordination and a framework for fighting terrorism, and this legislation does that," said Red Cavaney, API president.

The Senate, on a 90-9 vote late Tuesday, approved legislation creating the department. The House voted on the measure last week and President George W. Bush will sign the bill into law shortly. The new department will pull together 170,000 federal employees from 22 agencies, including an unspecified number from the Department of Energy, which now is in charge of monitoring potential threats to energy infrastructures.

API and other industry trade associations successfully lobbied Congress to keep out of the cabinet proposal a plan directing the US Environmental Protection Agency to place tough security rules at chemical plants, refineries, and other facilities that deal with potentially hazardous materials (OGJ Online, Sept. 11, 2002). Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) offered and then withdrew a chemical "security" amendment to S. 2452, the legislation establishing the department. API and others had argued that the proposal would require companies to conduct redundant vulnerability assessments and would unfairly expand EPA authority over air pollution guidelines.

Reorganization timetable
The cabinet reorganization is expected to take at least a year, if not longer, to complete, but Cavaney said he does not expect that to compromise ongoing efforts between the federal government and industry to tighten antiterrorism measures.

"It may take some time but I don't expect any big problems at all," the API official said, speaking on the sidelines of an association conference here. "It's the same people with the same expertise. They just may be in a different desk or a different office."

Cavaney also said API continues to have confidence in the White House's color-code alert system, even though some think tanks have criticized the terrorism alert regime because it is voluntary and not industry-specific.

"We all learn by going forward, and this is working now. It's not perfect, but it is a system we can work together on and build consensus for the future," he said.

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