The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) has expressed strong concern over legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate that mandates that chemical facilities switch to so-called safer chemicals or processes in a misguided attempt to safeguard such critical infrastructure from a terrorist incident.

The legislation, known as the Secure Chemical Facilities Act, was introduced by senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) days after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised the department’s existing standards now being implemented by chemical facilities through the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). Speaking at the Chemical Sector Security Summit on July 7, Napolitano underscored the importance of the current program's common-sense performance standards to help protect individual facilities against threats without compromising their unique operational characteristics or efficiency.

“Senator Lautenberg’s bill runs counter to the secretary’s emphasis on a balanced approach to the existing CFATS program,” said Lawrence D. Sloan, SOCMA president and CEO. “SOCMA appreciates the bill’s attention to the impact of its controversial provision, better known as inherently safer technology (IST), on small chemical facilities. However, IST is obviously not a common-sense mandate.

“This legislation follows the same partisan approach as the House to alter a comprehensive chemical security standard, now being successfully implemented to protect American workers and communities in which chemical facilities operate.”

“Senator Lautenberg is casting aside bipartisan efforts already put in place by fellow Democratic colleagues to ensure that the existing security standards, set to expire soon, continue to protect chemical facilities from terrorist attack,” said Bill Allmond, SOCMA vice president of Government Relations. “While intending to protect chemical facilities against attack, this bill takes aim at the manner in which the U.S. manufactures chemicals, which has the potential to alter common goods that Americans rely on every day.”

SOCMA said the legislation is majorly flawed because it mandates implementation of a process safety concept, not a security measure-a clear definition of which cannot be agreed upon by experts and which cannot be measured. Academia and industry experts alike have repeatedly testified against mandating IST, yet this bill ignores those warnings.

According to SOCMA, the best path forward is supporting the Senate’s bipartisan bill, S. 2996, to extend the existing comprehensive chemical security standards.

For more information,