- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

As we pointed out last Monday, the Bush administration has quite properly made clear its strong opposition to Sen. Joseph Lieberman's provisions in the homeland security bill that would strip President Bush of his authority to move swiftly to make essential personnel changes in the new security agency. Senior administration officials are rightly recommending that Mr. Bush veto any such bill containing such language. But there's another potential killer provision that could be added to the Senate version of the bill in the coming week. It, too, should trigger a veto of any homeland security legislation worthy of the name.
Environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace are pushing for an amendment to the bill by Democratic Sens. Jon Corzine and Jim Jeffords. The amendment would weaken the powers of the Homeland Security Department and vastly expand the regulatory powers of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate allegedly hazardous materials.
Unfortunately, the measure is most likely to result in untold compliance costs for approximately 15,000 small businesses that work with chemicals (the most hard-hit being agricultural producers and owners of water-treatment facilities) while essentially duplicating industry security efforts that are already in place and being accelerated. For example, as Fred Webber, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), points out on the facing page, the American chemical industry is already sharing vital security-related information about chemicals with the FBI. Moreover, the ACC requires its member companies to analyze and evaluate potential hazards and to bring in independent third parties, such as firefighters and insurance companies, to verify the workability of companies' security upgrades following September 11.
The Corzine-Jeffords amendment is virtually identical to S. 1602, a bill approved unanimously in July by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (with the support of a few conservatives who should have known better.) This bill would, among other things, compel chemical firms to provide the federal government (most likely the EPA and the Justice Department) with security plans and draft new plans to respond to their "flaws." According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Quarterly, it would allow the EPA and the Justice Department to designate some plants as being at "high risk for accidents and terrorist attacks" and require owners to "increase security." A plant owner deemed to have failed to "properly" safeguard chemicals could be fined up to $25,000 per day for a first offense. For a subsequent violation, plant officials could be fined up to $50,000 per day or imprisoned for up to two years.
Since late July, at least 30 trade associations among them the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Small Business Survival Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Trucking Associations, the National Corn Growers Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of America sent letters to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and other senators outlining the most serious problems with the Corzine-Jeffords measure. It would, for example, enable the EPA to establish a public clearinghouse for sensitive security information "that could potentially be used by terrorists and criminals." Another provision would give the EPA, an agency not generally known for its security expertise, the power to exercise sweeping regulatory authority and force businesses to redesign security processes that have been the product of many hours of rigorous testing and analyses.
Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, makes a compelling case that Greenpeace, the driving force behind the Corzine-Jeffords measure, has an ulterior motive: The organization sees it as a potent weapon to compel, for ideological reasons, the reduction and eventual elimination of chemicals like chlorine, which are essential to public health. Mrs. Logomasini says that, if Corzine-Jeffords passes, Greenpeace is virtually certain to attempt to lobby the EPA to impose restrictions that could lead to reduced use of chlorine in public water. This could well make the water we drink dirtier in the end.
As the current session of Congress moves into its final weeks, Mr. Daschle and farm-state lawmakers like his junior Democratic colleague from South Dakota, Sen. Tim Johnson, will come under greater pressure from farm groups to pass a clean homeland security bill. That means, at a bare minimum, getting rid of non-security related items like Corzine-Jeffords. The contents of S. 1602 do not belong in homeland security legislation. The president must make it absolutely clear that if Messrs. Daschle and Lieberman, etc. insist on sending him a bill containing anything resembling Corzine-Jeffords, he will veto it.

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