June 27, 2013
As prepared for delivery:
"Chairman Boxer, Ranking Member Vitter, thank you for holding this hearing to discuss the recent tragedies in Texas and Louisiana. One of the accidents in Louisiana involved a firm headquartered in Oklahoma, and I have been talking with them to make sure we understand exactly what happened and what we can do to help. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their families.
"I think the appropriate response to these tragedies should be to fact-find and understand what happened and what went wrong. But I have a feeling this hearing is going to move quickly into a discussion about what new regulations are needed. This is premature, especially with respect to the case in Texas. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which investigates these types of incidents, has yet to determine the cause of the explosion. If we don’t know what happened, how can we have a responsible discussion about the existing regulatory structure?
"In light of this, I would like to point out that according to the Bureau of Labor and OSHA, chemical manufacturing facilities are safe places to work. Studies they conducted in 2011 showed that this sector actually had injury rates that were lower than the national average across all industries. And in Texas and Louisiana in particular, the facts are the same. Home to hundreds of chemical facilities with tens of thousands of employees, these states both had injury rates that are significantly lower than the national average. This may come as a surprise to many in this room, but it’s true. So we need to be very careful before we jump to conclusions and force more regulations on this very vibrant sector of the economy.
"I have always believed that chemical security is of utmost importance. While I served as Chairman of this Committee, I twice tried to move legislation that would have required certain chemical facilities to upgrade their security, specifically against terrorist acts. While these moves were supported by the Department of Homeland Security, we were not successful because some members insisted that the legislation allow DHS to mandate the use of “inherently safer technologies.”
"The concept of inherently safer technology, or IST, dates back to the 1990s, but now radical environmental groups are using tragedies such as 9/11, West, TX, and those in Louisiana to push their agenda as a solution to perceived problems with chemical facility security. In reality, IST is nothing more than additional regulations on the chemical manufacturing process. Implementing IST would give the federal government the authority to mandate changes to the manufacturing processes and chemicals used by the private sector. And because it would be up to the federal government to determine what is, and is not, inherently safer technology, it would be carte blanche authority. This seemingly small and insignificant change in regulations could have severe effects on downstream production, or worse, cripple the entire chemical sector. These regulations are not the solution.
"The chemical sector is an integral and strategic component of the United States economy, employing nearly 1 million people, and generating revenues approaching $1 trillion per year. Most other sectors of the economy, ranging from energy to food to healthcare and transportation, all rely on the chemical industry to provide them with inputs to their own products. Mandating IST regulations could prove detrimental to the entire US economy.
"The risks of IST are clearly high, especially for something that may not even provide the safety and security being advertised. When speaking about IST, Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff warned that, “We have to be careful not to move from what is a security-based focus into one that tries to broaden into achieving environmental ends that are unrelated to security.” The real drive to have IST is not security, but rather it is to give the federal government power to pick and choose which products and processes are used by the chemical industry for the sake of environmental activists. And when we give the federal government more power to determine processes that are sensitive to local conditions and technical processes, it wouldn’t be long before the it actually came up with something more dangerous than what was being used before.
"This rush to suggest new regulations – with sweeping new federal powers – even before the facts and true causes of the accidents are fully known, is typical of the other side. The proposal and serious discussion of unjustified new regulations – be it for chemical security, ozone, or greenhouse gases – impose a significant and stunning chilling effect on the entire economy and make it difficult, if not impossible, for businesses to justify expansions and new investments. And we will not have job growth or an economic recovery with government policies that punish growth. More regulations does not mean safer and better. We must take the time to learn the facts, and be very careful to ensure any regulatory changes are carefully constructed and strike the right balance to allow growth and innovation.
"I look forward to hearing from the panels."