August 14, 2007
Texas Governor signs port security district legislation
Texas Gov. Rick Perry today ceremonially signed state House Bill 3011. It allows the creation of a ship channel security district for the Port of Houston and empowers local authorities to partner with private sector companies to take an integrated, system-wide approach to enhancing port security.
Perry was joined by legislators, federal and local officials, and members of the energy industry for the ceremony--which came some two months after the official signing on June 15, 2007, shortly after the bill passed the Legislature.
"The Ship Channel Security bill I am signing today is an essential step in our efforts to protect the vital resources of our state," Perry said. "It formalizes an unprecedented partnership between government and industry to coordinate security efforts across the Houston Ship Channel, home to more than 40 percent of our nation's petrochemical capacity."
The Port Strategic Security Council (PSSC), a public-private group comprised of companies and local governing bodies along the Houston Ship Channel, devised a sensible, workable approach to the security concerns in the area, including those addressed in House Bill 3011.
"This legislation provides for better coordination between first-responders and their private sector partners," Perry said. "It encourages all involved to work together to create a safer port, maintaining the flow of vital materials and products, strengthening our economy and making for a safer Texas."
The Texas Legislature, in its 80th biannual session, authorized the creation of the Houston Ship Channel Security District -- an entity, proponents hope, that will serve as a security model for ports throughout the United States. The brainchild of Port of Houston Authority Chairman Jim Edmonds, HSCSD is a public-private partnership designed to help improve security within the Houston Ship Channel area by assisting with the local share and operations and maintenance cost of security infrastructure.
House Bill 3011 authorizes the Harris County Commissioners Court to create a ship channel security district, which will be made up of voluntary local entities and private sector partners joining together to provide security for facilities along the Houston Ship Channel. The district will have the powers of assessment to fund the costs to operate and maintain security infrastructure, services and projects.
The district will be governed by a board of directors with staggered two-year terms. At least eight directors from the private petrochemical, chemical and refinery industries will be selected to represent the district's security zones. Two representatives of each zone will be selected by a majority of facility owners within each zone. Other directors will be a representative of the port authority, a director appointed by the county, and a final director appointed by the Harris County Mayors and Councils Association.
The next step in the process will involve distribution of a petition to be signed by 50 percent of the facilities within the district and 50 percent of the facilities representing the assessed value of the district. Once signed, the petition will go to Harris County Commissioners, who will then vote on whether to approve the district.
The security district's predecessor was the Port Strategic Security Council, formed three years ago after U.S. Homeland Security Department officials visited the Port of Houston and explained what criteria went into determining how much in security grants ship channel industries would receive. Representatives of ship channel businesses were told the department was looking for a port to apply for grants that would address port-wide security issues in addition to facility-by-facility needs. Funding increased over the next two years and the challenge then became how to fund the continued operation of security devices, such as closed circuit TV cameras, patrol boats and virtual fences.