NPRA Testifies before Congress on Chemical Security Legislation

July 15, 2005
NPRA president urged continued public-private partnership

WASHINGTON -- Bob Slaughter, President of NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, today testified before the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on the subject of "Chemical Facility Security: What is the Appropriate Federal Role?" In the testimony, NPRA stated: "Refiners and petrochemical manufacturers were heavily engaged in maintaining and strengthening facility security prior to September 11, 2001. Since 9/11, industry has not waited for new government regulations before implementing additional and far-reaching facility security measures to address these new threats. NPRA does not oppose reasonable chemical security legislation. The existing system, however, is working well and great care must be taken to do no harm to current efforts in crafting any new federal legislation."

In his testimony, Mr. Slaughter described an integrated system of domestic security efforts undertaken by the refining and petrochemical industries that includes federal security law, government partnerships, intelligence sharing and voluntary security activities. "What are some of the steps our industries have taken to strengthen security? Our industries have conducted security vulnerability assessments, prepared and implemented facility security plans, worked closely with key federal agencies and state and local law enforcement offices to exchange critical infrastructure information, held joint training excises simulating actual terrorist attacks and have developed education programs featuring federal and state government officials with security expertise."

Mr. Slaughter went on to say that while NPRA does not advocate federal legislation, it realizes that the Committee and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have both announced support for new regulatory authority to address chemical security. NPRA is concerned that creating new chemical security legislation could negatively impact industry's relationship with DHS and other security agencies which allows for informal exchanges vital to maintaining facility security.

Mr. Slaughter outlined some principles that he hopes that Committee will consider and adopt in federal legislation. The first principle concerns the general construct of any chemical security legislation. Given the success of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), it is NPRA's strong recommendation that MTSA be used as the model or template for any new security legislation. Mr. Slaughter said, "A MTSA-type regulatory program would include clear performance-based requirements, security vulnerability assessments, facility security plans, exercises, documentation, reporting procedures, audits, and protection for Sensitive Security Information (SSI)."

In addition, federal legislation should continue existing U.S. Coast Guard jurisdiction over facility security, and authorize DHS to promulgate MTSA-type security requirements for chemical facilities not regulated by the Coast Guard. The legislation should avoid overlapping jurisdiction with other federal agencies by giving this federal program preemption over other federal or state programs. In those cases where facilities are only partially covered by MTSA, they should be given the option of submitting security plans to the Coast Guard where logistically appropriate.

Mr. Slaughter said, "NPRA believes that it is critical that any new legislation recognize and credit companies for the security programs already implemented." If background checks of employees and contract employees are required, NPRA urges the Committee to direct DHS to define specific criteria for denying workers access to a facility. Companies conducting background checks should also be authorized to access and utilize government resources and databases. Finally, federal legislation should require that DHS develop a risk-based approach to regulate chemicals and facilities.

Mr. Slaughter concluded his testimony by saying, "NPRA was encouraged by the core principles for chemical security announced by DHS at the Committee's June 15th hearing. Those principles for addressing chemical security are based on risk and provide reasonable, clear, equitable and enforceable security standards, while recognizing the investments and progress that companies have made to date. We urge the Committee to fully consider the impact of federal legislation on existing security programs and practices, to use MTSA as the template for developing new chemical security requirements, and to adopt and support the core principles outlined by DHS. We concur with these principles and look forward to working with both the Committee and DHS as legislation is developed."

NPRA is a national trade association whose members include more than 450 companies, including virtually all U.S. refiners and petrochemical producers.