WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 26 -- The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association praised US House and Senate conferees on Sept. 26 for giving the Department of Homeland Security authority to regulate certain high-risk chemical plants.
But NPRA tempered its commendation by expressing regret that the regulatory authority, which will be inserted in the federal agency's fiscal 2007 budget, is scheduled to expire after 3 years.
"The petrochemical and refining industries have made and will continue to make major, long-term investments in protecting facilities, employees, and the surrounding communities from potential threats. We should be able to do so with the knowledge and confidence that requirements will not change every few years," NPRA Pres. Bob Slaughter said.
Nevertheless, the association said the agreement reached by conferees the evening of Sept. 22 was a favorable response to DHS's request for authority to establish high-risk security standards for comparably high-risk facilities.
The agreement also adds a requirement for chemical plants to assess their vulnerabilities and create and implement security plans based on those vulnerabilities, subject to approve by the DHS secretary.
DHS also would gain the authority to require compliance with its security requirements, including the right to audit and inspect facilities and to shut down plants that do not comply under the agreement, which will be submitted to the joint appropriations committee.
"NPRA agrees that the provision should not cover facilities already subject to the extensive security requirements of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), and that the regulations should permit each covered facility to select appropriate measures to meet the standards set by DHS," Slaughter said.
He added that the trade association is pleased that the DHS legislation takes a stance similar to the MTSA in protecting vulnerability assessments and specific site security plans from unwarranted public disclosures.
The measure also provides for the appropriate sharing of information with state and local law enforcement officials, along with first responders whose duties may require in-depth knowledge of security-related information, according to Slaughter.
"The DHS and industry have created an outstanding working relationship in the shared fight against terrorism. This working partnership has been very effective in enhancing industry's ability to focus on those security threats that exist today and the potential threats that we may face in the future," he said.
Slaughter said NPRA and its members look forward to continue working with DHS as the federal agency develops final regulations to replace the interim authority it will receive under the fiscal 2007 budget that emerged from the congressional conference.
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