Congress Plans Changes to Chemical Regulations (Online Exclusive)

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Within days of the January 2008 deadline for chemical producers and distributors to file their "top screen" hazard-assessment questionnaire to the Department of Homeland Security, a Congressional subcommittee approved legislation to further tighten handling, transportation, and reporting rules for hazardous materials. Chemical producers, distributors, and carriers responded with a quick and loud call for legislators to wait for current rules to work before changing them.

On Jan. 23, 2008, the Transportation and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee approved by voice vote a committee print of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act to extend and modify the authority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to regulate security practices at chemical facilities.

"We are concerned that Congress is prematurely considering changes to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS)," says Christopher L. Jahn, president, National Association of Chemical Distributors. "DHS has developed the regulations as quickly as possible, but implementation is still only in the early stages. NACD urges the House Homeland Security Committee and Congress to give CFATS more time to be fully implemented and tested before making changes to this important program."

Other industry sources say producers, distributors, and carriers are particularly disturbed by Congress' restiveness because many were early supporters of CFATS despite the large additional recording and reporting burden it created.

Furthermore, the chemical sector is a global industry for production and distribution, and so many companies at all levels have to comply with both U.S. and international regulations. The European Union, for example, has a sweeping new code, Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH).

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