Government Shutdown Has Resulted in Suspension of Chemical Security Protocols

In 2007, Congress put into place a terrorism countermeasure that would protect US chemical facilities from criminal and terrorist attacks. Those protocols were established with a three-year expiration date, in order to give government agencies a chance to evaluate what steps needed to be taken and create long-term, permanent legislation.

Instead, for the past several years Congress has been renewing the original 2007 anti-terrorism protocols at US chemical facilities, measures that were only written to serve as a security blanket until that long-term set of practices could be researched and finalized. Now, thanks to the ongoing government shutdown, those temporary standards have lapsed as a result of no legislation being passed that included further renewals.

As a result, government oversight of these facilities has gone from requiring a set of minimum standards, mandated reporting directly to the Department of Homeland Security, and having detailed outlines of security measures in place to thwart intentional hazards, to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, essentially stating that there were no longer any enforceable measures in place at the more than 37,000 chemical facilities in the US. He went on to state that Congress no longer had authority to oversee those facilities or require the minimum standards.

While critics of the current state of political upheaval that led to the government shutdown can argue the merits of the move, still others feel the lapse of the safety protocols was an intentional consequence that has left the country’s chemical facilities open to criminal attack. Moreover, Rick Hind, legislative director of Greenpeace, stated in response to this revelation that the lapse now allows approximately two-thirds of those chemical facilities sidestep EPA regulations, as well as prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from involving itself in mandating security measures be enacted, an outcome that he feels was intentional in every way.