WARNS AGAINST DANGERS OF FEDERAL PREEMPTION OF STATE RULES
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) welcomed testimony from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing designed to advance comprehensive chemical security legislation.
Rep. Pascrell and the NJDEP highlighted their concern about Section 2107(a) of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008, which is currently being drafted by the Homeland Security Committee and was a focal point of the hearing. The section provides support against federal preemption of state regulations for states like New Jersey, which provide stronger chemical security standards than the federal government. However, Rep. Pascrell and the NJDEP believe that the language still contains some ambiguity that could be misconstrued and leave open the possibility of federal preemption. Upon hearing these concerns being outlined by Rep. Pascrell, both Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson and Subcommittee Chair Sheila Jackson Lee vowed to work with him to ensure that the language would be altered to protect states like New Jersey.
“I want to clear up any ambiguity in this draft legislation that could cause confusion and conflict between state and federal security standards,” stated Pascrell. “I will continue to work with Homeland Security Committee to ensure that we clarify this language so that there is no possibility of this Administration exploiting any loopholes and preempting strong state regulations. Clearly, states must have the right to implement the strongest regulations possible. I will work towards altering any language that remains ambiguous so that Congress may adequately modernize America’s chemical security infrastructure.”
Stressing the importance for states like New Jersey to remain in control of chemical security infrastructure, Rep. Pascrell questioned the ability of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to perform the tasks necessary to successfully implement and enforce nationwide Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). The office within DHS charged with carrying out CFATS, the Chemical Security Compliance Division (CSCD), currently enlists 30 personnel.
“DHS has demonstrated a poor track record for preparedness on some of the most critical security issues we face. It would be irresponsible and naïve of this Committee to entrust a 30-person chemical security compliance team with overseeing the nation’s expansive networks of chemical plants. In New Jersey alone we have a far more robust staff of chemical compliance personnel. New Jersey has implemented a chemical security model that has won industry support and reduced an emerging threat in our state. It is a model that we would be foolhardy not to leave intact and incorporate into a national chemical security strategy.”
Before the hearing closed, Rep. Pascrell praised the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for requiring companies to evaluate the potential of incorporating inherently safer technology (IST).
“I will push for New Jersey’s inherently safer technology model to be implemented nationwide as Congress moves forward with comprehensive chemical security legislation in 2008. America has the technology to reduce the danger chemical plants pose to our communities. I will fight to make sure we also have the political will to require inherently safer technology by law,” Pascrell concluded.