Mr. Chairman, I rise today to express my strong support for the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009.
I would like to thank Chairman Thompson for his hard work in crafting this vital piece of legislation.
I support this legislation because it will enhance the security of our Nation in terms of chemicals, drinking water, and wastewater facilities. This legislation lessens the vulnerability of our most critical sectors, one of which I live in.
More specifically, I rise today to speak to a provision that I offered which protects workers who identify and report violations affecting the safety and security of chemical facilities. When it comes to the security of our facilities, we should not leave our first preventers at the door. We depend upon them to be competent, to be vigilant, and to be proactive. We owe them the assurance that they will not be penalized for doing their jobs properly. That is why I am pleased that the bill also incorporates a provision that requires the facility owners to certify in writing their knowledge of protections for whistleblowers.
So, Mr. Chairman, when we look at H.R. 2868, the answers are really clear. All you have to look back at is the poison gas leak of a Union Carbide plant in 1984 which killed 10,000 people in 72 hours, and that was an accident. Imagine the economic and strategic damage that could be done to our country.
Let's talk about my district, the 37th. I am a proud Representative of the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant in Carson, California. That wastewater treatment plant switched from using chlorine gas to liquid bleach disinfection. We need to do this throughout the country, and this legislation will enable us to do that.
I applaud Chairman Thompson for his work and for working with our other colleagues on the other committees.
I urge my colleagues on the other side: we can't wait. We can't wait anymore because our constituents are in danger.
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Mr. Chair, I rise today to express my strong support for the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009. I would also like to thank Chairman Oberstar, Chairman Waxman, and my distinguished colleague on the Homeland Security Committee, Chairman Thompson, for their hard work in crafting this vital legislation.
I support this legislation because it will enhance the security of our nation's chemical, drinking water, and wastewater facilities and it lessens the vulnerability of our most critical sectors to a terrorist attack. Specifically, this legislation:
Protects our nation by making critical infrastructure more secure;
Helps my district by enhancing the security of its chemical, drinking water, and wastewater facilities; and
Helps our economy by providing greater protection to the nation's major job creating sectors and by providing incentives to spur production and technological innovation.
I also support H.R. 2868 because it contains a provision I offered that protects workers who identify and report violations affecting the safety and security of chemical facilities to management or regulatory authorities from retaliation and reprisal. When it comes to the security of our chemical, drinking water, and wastewater facilities, the employees who work in them are the ``First Preventers.'' We depend on them to be competent, vigilante, and pro-active. We owe them the assurance that they will not be penalized for doing their jobs properly. That is why I am pleased the bill also incorporates a provision I offered requiring facility owners to certify in writing their knowledge of the protections provided whistleblowers and the Secretary's power to protect them.
Mr. Chair, eight years ago this September 11 terrorists attacked our country and inflicted incalculable damage to our people, economy, and national psyche. We responded to the horror and trauma of that day by resolving to honor the victims and heroes of 9-11 by doing all we can to protect our homeland and our people from any future attack.
There is a simple answer for those who question the timing or need for a comprehensive legislation to safeguard these facilities.
The poison gas leak at Union Carbide's Bhopal plant in 1984 that killed 10,000 people within 72 hours, and more than 25,000 people since, was an accident! Imagine the carnage that could result from an intentional act of terrorism or sabotage.
Mr. Chair, the chemical industry alone employs nearly a million Americans and it accounts for nearly $600 billion of the GDP. More than 70,000 industrial, consumer, and defense-related products--from plastics to fiber optics--are produced by the nation's chemical facilities.
The economic and strategic value of the chemical industry makes it an attractive target to terrorists because many chemicals, either in their base form or when combined with others, can cause significant harm to both humans and the environment if misused.
My congressional district alone abuts one of the nation's largest ports and is home to several major oil refineries, as well as gas treatment and petrochemical facilities. It is, as they say in the military, a "target rich environment."
So I am not willing to wait. The time has come for us to approve legislation that puts in place the necessary protections and authorizes the necessary resources to keep our chemical, wastewater, and drinking water facilities secure. This bill does that.
Chemical facilities determined by the Secretary to be at risk are required to conduct a Security Vulnerability Assessment (
SSV''). Based upon that assessment, the facility must then develop and implement a Site Security Plan (SSP''), which is subject to review, approval, and inspection by the DHS Office of Chemical Facility Security.
The legislation also authorizes the DHS Secretary to require, where appropriate, that chemical facilities in the highest risk tiers implement
methods to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack'' by utilizinginherently safer technologies'' (IST). And it authorizes the Secretary to award $225 million in grants to provide technical assistance and funding to finance the capital costs incurred in transitioning to inherently safer technologies.
I am also pleased to note that facilities around the country have already begun taking action to make their chemical processes safer. For example, in the 37th district, of which I am a proud representative, the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant in Carson, California, a wastewater treatment plant, switched from using chlorine gas to liquid bleach disinfection. This legislation is already spurring companies to make important changes that will keep our country and our communities safer.
Mr. Chair, I could go on but it suffices to state that this legislation is a balanced and pragmatic response to a critical security need. And again, I want to thank Chairman Oberstar, Chairman Thompson, and Chairman Waxman for their leadership in crafting this extraordinary bill.
I support the Chemical and Water Security Act and urge all members to do likewise.