Senators reach deal on chemical security measure

Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., have agreed to settle their differences over the scope of Inhofe's chemical security bill, clearing the way for the committee to mark up the bill Thursday, panel aides said.

Because of concerns with the strength of the bill, Chafee had sided with Democrats in seeking stronger controls on chemical plant security, essentially stalling the bill in committee. Although Democrats still oppose the bill and are expected to make a push for a number of amendments, Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., who has pushed a much more aggressive chemical plant security bill, did commend Inhofe and Chafee for brokering a deal.

"I think it's progress and I congratulate Chairman Inhofe and Sen. Chafee on at least moving the ball forward towards a reasonable bill," Corzine told reporters. However, he did say he would work through his "agents" on the committee to try to amend the bill, and also vowed a vigorous floor fight.

Opponents to Inhofe's proposal, including Chafee, had complained that the bill did not include adequate controls on chemical plant security plans, as well as having no language requiring companies to use safer technology when it is available.

In response to those concerns, Inhofe agreed to require facilities to provide the Homeland Security Department with a copy of their security plans, and directs them to conduct technology studies to determine if a safer alternative to existing processes exists. An Inhofe aide said although the Thursday markup will likely be contentious, the committee is expected to pass the bill.