House passes chemical facility security bill

The House on Tuesday passed a bill by voice vote that would authorize the Department of Homeland Security to establish standards protecting chemical facilities from terrorism.

The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program would only apply to chemical facilities designated by the Department of Homeland Security that have a high security risk.

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House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the measure would help prevent events like the April 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion at a West, Texas fertilizer facility.

After the the tragic events in West, Texas in my home state," McCaul said, "it is imperative we pass this bill."

The program has been maintained through the appropriations process since 2006. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the separate measure would help overhaul the program, but neglected to address issues such as oversight of waste water in communities near chemical facilities.

"The bill before us today is a good start, but there is more to be done," Thompson said.

Standards developed under the legislation would not be disclosed publicly. But the information could be shared with state and local government officials with security clearances.

Additionally, chemical facilities would be audited and inspected to ensure compliance with the security standards outlined by DHS.

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