Still a Bill on Capitol Hill
You may or may not be aware of the proposed bill H.R. 5300, Chemical Security Act of 2002. If enacted, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will no longer be solely responsible for chemical security. Coordination with the proposed Department of Homeland Security, local law enforcement and emergency responders, and employees would be required. Each owner and operator of a facility -- including ammonia refrigeration facilities -- will be responsible for compliance.
The bill was introduced on July 26 by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.-6) and Rep. Marge Roukema (N.J.-5). Its summary states:
"Directs the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate regulations to: (1) designate certain combinations of chemical sources and substances of concern as high priority categories based on the severity of the threat posed by an unauthorized release of such substance; and (2) require each owner and operator of a high priority category chemical source to conduct an assessment of the vulnerability of the chemical source to a terrorist attack or other unauthorized release, identify hazards that may result, and prepare a prevention, preparedness and response plan.
"Requires each such owner and operator to take specified actions regarding certification of vulnerability and hazard assessments, and development of prevention, preparedness and response plans. Exempts information provided to the Administrator from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
"Directs the Administrator to review each assessment and plan submitted to determine compliance. Requires the head of the Office of Homeland Security to take specified steps, upon determining that a threat of a terrorist attack exists that is beyond the scope of a submitted plan, to abate the threat.
"Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) record-keeping and entry (by the Administrator or an authorized representative); and (2) civil, criminal and administrative penalties."
When I spoke with Pallone's office, I was told that current plans include companion legislation in the Senate -- to attach the resolution of the Chemical Security Act of 2002 to the bill that establishes the new Department of Homeland Security.
The congressman's office also told me that congressional business is suspended until at least November 12. There still may be time to voice your opinion -- whether it be for or against the bill. I encourage you to contact your state representatives now. A resolution is expected by the end of the year.