President-elect Obama’s most ambitious legislative initiative in the area of homeland security during his years in the US Senate was a bill co-sponsored with Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to toughen federal standards and oversight of security at US chemical plants. Though Obama’s 2006 bill, called the Chemical Safety and Security Act of 2006, was never enacted, Obama has continued to make chemical security a centerpiece of his policy proposals on homeland security.
The current law on national chemical security, passed as a temporary bill in 2006, is due to expire in October 2009. Many prominent Democrats, including President-elect Obama, have criticized the interim bill for lacking stringent standards and enforcement power.
A new report from the Center for American Progress, a progressive Washington, DC think tank from which several key advisors of the Obama transition team have been drawn, outlines a broad program of chemical security reforms currently being discussed in prominent Democratic party policy circles. The report, titled Chemical Security 101, provides a detailed preview of the regulatory proposals that may emerge both in Congress and from the new administration itself in the coming year.
The report recommends that Congress establish a comprehensive chemical security program rooted in identifying, developing, and leveraging the use of alternative technologies that could remove the threat of a catastrophic toxic gas release by generating chemicals at the point of use rather than transporting and storing them. In addition the report also calls for incentives to industry to encourage migration to the alternate technologies.
The report also recommends building in greater oversight capacity and ensuring equal enforcement. This, the report acknowledges, will entail a harder line on regulating industry. “Chemical companies should not receive special treatment just because they participate in voluntary industry security programs, as proposed in some recent bills before Congress,” it says.
[Note: Because of the close relationship some of Obama's advisers have with the Center for American Progress, this think tank may have a hand in shaping quite a bit of homeland security policy in the new administration. They have a weekly national security newsletter for those interested.]
Filed under: Administration, Barack Obama, Congress, Legislation, President, Reports, Senate, White House | Tagged: Center for American Progress, chemical security, Frank Lautenberg, oversight, transition | 3 Comments »