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Legislative Approaches to Chemical Facility Security

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Publication Date: August 2005

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL33043

Topic: Manufacturing and industry (Chemical industries)


Federal officials, policy analysts, and homeland security experts express concern about the current state of chemical facility security. Some security experts fear these facilities are at risk of a potentially catastrophic terrorist attack. The Department of Homeland Security identifies chemical facilities as being one of the highest priority critical infrastructure sectors. Currently, chemical facility security efforts include a mixture of local, state, and federal laws, industry trade association requirements, voluntary actions, and federal outreach programs.

Many in the public and private sector call for federal legislation to address chemical facility security. Still, disagreement exists over whether legislation is the best approach to securing chemical facilities, and if legislation is deemed necessary, what approaches best meet the security need. Many questions face policymakers. Is the current voluntary approach sufficient or should security measures be required? If the latter, is chemical facility security regulation a federal role, or should such regulation be developed at the state level? To what extent is additional security required at chemical facilities? Should the government provide financial assistance for chemical facility security or should chemical facilities bear security costs?

Critical issues surrounding chemical facility security legislation include determining which chemical facilities should be protected by analyzing and prioritizing chemical facility security risks; identifying which chemical facilities pose the most risk; and establishing what activities could enhance facility security to an acceptable level. Mechanisms for assessing security risk might include weighing the known or theoretical terrorist threat faced by a particular facility, the chemical hazards held at a facility, the quantities and location of those chemicals relative to the surrounding population, or the facility's industrial classification.

Some security regulation exists for some chemical facilities under other legislation, such as the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) (P.L. 107-295), the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), as amended by the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act (P.L. 107-188), and selected state laws. Potential chemical facility security enhancements might be achieved through a range of policy approaches: providing high risk facilities security grants; mandating site vulnerability assessments; compelling vulnerability remediation; establishing federal security standards; or requiring the consideration or use of specific technologies. Proposed legislation in some cases complements existing law and in others overrides it.

In the 109th Congress, H.R. 1562, the Chemical Facility Security Act of 2005, and H.R. 2237, the Chemical Security Act of 2005, contain provisions requiring vulnerability assessment and the creation of security plans, though details vary. Other Members have expressed the intention to introduce legislation.

This report will discuss current chemical facility security efforts, issues in defining chemical facilities, policy challenges in developing chemical facility security legislation, and the various policy approaches. This report will be updated as circumstances warrant.