The Agricultural Retailers Association reports that the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday, March 6, by a vote of 15 to 7 approved the "Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008." This legislation would permanently authorize the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) regulations. The proposal would also require all chemical facilities to conduct an assessment on the use of inherently safer technology (IST) and safer processes. A large portion of the committee debate focused on the IST provision. An amendment offered by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security & Infrastructure Protection, to require only "high-risk" tiered facilities to conduct an IST assessment was defeated by a party line vote. Anti-chemical activist groups such as Greenpeace and the U.S. PIRG have pushed for the inclusion of the IST provision. ARA along with a coalition of industry groups sent a letter ob Feb. 26 to committee members expressing serious objections to the current bill.

An amendment approved by voice vote would require DHS to create a system to conduct background checks for all facilities designated under Tier 1, the highest risk against terrorist attacks. ARA supports permanently authorizing the current DHS chemical security regulations but expressed strong concerns to committee members that an IST mandate could jeopardize the availability of lower-cost sources of plant nutrient products or certain agricultural pesticides used by farmers and ranchers. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) formally introduced the bill (HR 5577) and it is expected to be referred to the House Energy & Commerce Committee for review and consideration. ARA will provide updates to members as this issue moves forward in Congress. If you are interested in a copy of the coalition letter, contact Richard Gupton, ARA vice president of legislative policy & counsel. by e-mail at or by phone at (202) 457-0825.