Conservative Groups Step Up Efforts to Kill Corzine Bill

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - A grassroots coalition of conservative groups is calling on the U.S. Senate to defeat a bill which they say could put the distribution of chemicals used by American farmers under the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Chemical Security Act (S.1602), sponsored by Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), would unnecessarily regulate about 40 materials deemed as hazardous, including fertilizers, pesticides used by farmers, and chemicals used to keep the country's drinking water safe, the groups said. The bill could be voted on as early as Thursday.

The Corzine bill, which is attached to the Homeland Security Bill, advances an environmental agenda under the cover of a security bill and does little to increase the security of chemical facilities vulnerable to a terrorist attack, they said.

"It's commonly known inside the Beltway that this bill is sort of a dream come true for the folks at Greenpeace," said Ian Walters, communications director with the American Conservative Union, a group urging senators to reject the bill.

Since Sept. 11, farmers and chemical manufacturers have understood the potential for terrorists to exploit their industries, Walters said.

"And these corporations should be congratulated for continuing to enact aggressive measures that would ensure public safety in production and the delivery of our food and water. This bill is excessive regulation," he said.

About 20 groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are lobbying against the bill, Walters said.

In July, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Corzine bill in a 19 - 0 vote, despite opposition.

Industry groups united to urge Senate leaders to reject Corzine's plan.

Among others, the bill would require industrial facilities that belong to the Clean Air Act's Risk Management Plan program to submit plans for assessing and reducing security vulnerabilities, they argued. Chemical firms said that would delay or cancel out the industry's voluntary security efforts.

A group of 30 trade associations wrote to members of Congress, urging opposition.

"Although characterized as security legislation, S.1602 would splinter security responsibility away from the Department of Homeland Security and grant the EPA excessive new authority that may be detrimental to advancing our nation's critical infrastructure security," the letter said.

In a letter dated Sept. 10, a dozen organizations, including the United Steelworkers of America, urged President Bush to support the act.

Darius Goore, a spokesman for Corzine, said Corzine's focus is in getting this Chemical Security Act enacted into law.

"The senator doesn''t think we should wait for another attack or a tragedy before we take common sense steps to address what we know is a vulnerability in our homeland security infrastructure," Goore said.

E-mail a news tip to Lawrence Morahan.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.