Senate Committee to Lose Jurisdiction over Chemical Plant Security

Senate Environment & Public Works Committee is expected to lose jurisdiction next year over legislation requiring security improvements at chemical plants

Still, activists say the change in committee jurisdiction presents a new opportunity next session. "Maybe we can go back and start with a clean slate and put together a strong bill," the environmentalist says.

While Corzine and Inhofe do not sit on the governmental affairs panel, both have allies who would likely side with their respective views on chemical security.

For instance, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), who was an early proponent of chemical security requirements, will likely work with Corzine to develop a strategy for the next legislative session, according to a congressional source close to Launtenberg. And Lieberman has joined other Democrats in the past in criticizing Inhofe's bill.

"He will absolutely bring back the chemical security bill next year," a spokesman for Corzine says, adding that the Democrat will work with Lautenberg and others to devise a strategy for passage next session. His bill has failed repeatedly to win the support of the Senate, but passed the environment panel unanimously when the Democrats controlled the chamber in 2002.

On the other hand, industry sources say Republican Sens. George Voinovich (OH) and Richard Shelby (AL), who both sit on the governmental affairs panel, will likely oppose any legislation that would impose strict security requirements on the chemical industry.

Inhofe's bill passed the environment committee by a party-line vote last year, but never made it to the Senate floor. A spokesman for Inhofe says the lawmaker will soon make a formal request to GAO to evaluate Department of Homeland Security and industry security efforts to determine whether legislation would be necessary.