By Bill Allmond, vice president, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, Washington - 10/29/09 01:26 PM EDT
op-ed, “Bill would protect chemical plants,” by House Homeland Security
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., in “Special Report:
Homeland Security,” Oct. 28.) We agree with Rep. Thompson that now is
time to pass a permanent chemical security law that continues to build
on the collaborative relationship between the Department of Homeland
Security and our industry to protect against terrorism.
DHS’s mandate is to secure the assets at these facilities, not
substitute or replace them, as the congressman suggests. If proponents
for government-mandated product substitution get their way, a shortage
or elimination of common products, like ibuprofen, could become reality.
Switching to alternative substances would also increase our reliance on foreign-made drugs, as American companies become barred from manufacturing pharmaceutical ingredients that customers will still demand. Such a result would actually make the U.S. much less safe and secure, and cost American jobs. Suddenly, this legislation becomes a consumer and job safety issue as well.
The congressman does
not mention the fact that DHS has repeatedly stated that there is no
known credible threat against chemical plants. Additionally, to date,
no federal security or intelligence agency publicly shares his view
that substitution is the silver bullet to protecting chemical plants
against terrorism. Further, experts in process safety have repeatedly
testified in Congress against mandating inherently safer technology,
mostly because of its complexity and the inability to measure it.
urge Congress to put aside partisan differences and simply extend the
existing Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program,
which has already driven some facilities to make important process
changes. The unintended consequences of mandating product substitution
are simply too risky for the U.S. to accept today.
From Bill Allmond, vice president, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, Washington