H.R. 2868 amended the Homeland Security Act of 2002 in an effort to extend and enhance the protections against terrorist attacks of U.S. chemical facilities. As with all major bills the House considers the House first had to approve a resolution or “rule” setting the terms for its debate. This was on a motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule for H.R. 2868.
A major part of the debate on the motion focused on language in H.R. 2868 that required the application of “inherently safer technology” (IST) to chemical facilities. “Inherently safer technology” has been defined by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers as a set of techniques and designs in which safety features are built into the process, rather than externally controlled and managed. Rep. Hastings (D-FL), who was leading the effort on behalf of the rule and of the motion to move to an immediate vote on it, said that the Republican minority “may argue that the implementation of IST standards will hurt small businesses and will cause job loss. However, IST is already recognized as a ‘best practice,’ and is widely accepted within the chemical sector.”
Rep. Hastings also noted that: “The bill protects workers and neighbors of chemical facilities by asking the highest risk facilities to switch to safer chemicals and processes when it is economically feasible.” He claimed that the bill promoted “innovation and best practices to ensure that our citizens are protected and secure”, and noted that it had been endorsed by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and by the American Public Works Association.
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) was leading the opposition to the rule and the motion to move to an immediate vote on it. He said he had “concerns that this bill fails to enhance our security and, at a time when we are facing 10 percent unemployment . . . could endanger economic recovery.” Diaz-Balart also focused on the IST requirement. He said a witness from the Department of Homeland Security had testified that the department does not employ any specialists with IST expertise. Diaz-Balart went on to argue that “the IST is an attempt by the federal government to impose a one-size-fits-all approach to a complicated and disparate sector of our economy . . . It is not a good use of resources. “
Rep. Lungren (R-CA) argued that the bill “misunderstands what (IST) is. Lungren cited testimony by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers that IST is an “evolving concept, and the specific tools and techniques for application are in the early stages of development . . . .” Lungren claimed that the requirements that would be placed on businesses as a result of the IST language in the bill would be “unduly burdensome.”
The motion carried by a vote of 241-180. All two hundred and forty-one “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Seven other Democrats joined all one hundred and seventy-three Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved to an immediate vote on the rule setting the terms for debating the bill designed to extend and modify the authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security to protect chemical facilities.