GOP support in the push for chemical safety regulations

The push follows an executive order issued in August by President Obama, directing agencies to review chemical regulations now on the books in response to the deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant in April.

Agencies, including the EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Homeland Securities, have until the end of October to identify measures to improve plant safety.

“Already these activities are being delayed by the shutdown of the federal government,” said Katherine McFate, president of the Center for Effective Government.

The shutdown forced the cancellation of at least one public meeting on the initiative. McFate said the Oct. 31 deadline is “likely to slip,” but she expressed optimism that a May 1, 2014, deadline for the agencies to recommend regulatory changes to the president would stand.

Meanwhile, rules designed to protect chemical plants from terror attacks have expired during the shutdown.

Since 2007, the DHS has issued temporary rules to help chemical facilities guard against terror attacks. Those standards have been repeatedly extended to allow for a comprehensive program to be developed.

The program, known as the Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Standards, expired on Friday, four days into the shutdown.

The lapse is more evidence of the need for increased regulations, according to proponents, who say they have backing from the public.

Whitman and others pointed Friday to the results of a poll released by more than 100 groups representing the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters. The poll, which involved the survey of 744 likely voters, found that 55 percent thinks the federal government should require chemical facilities to use safer chemicals and processes. Only seven 7 opposed the idea of new safety requirements, according to the poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners.

The survey found that backing for federal safety requirements increased when respondents were presented with more information.

“Once they get familiar with the issues, they support federal action,” Whitman said.