Call for CFATS Legislative Freeze

Earlier this month some industry organizations called for a legislative freeze until 2011 for certain laws and mandates affecting chemical companies and facilities. The Society for Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) has been particularly vocal in its opposition to new and stricter portions of bills pending in Congress.

CFATS is one of the mandates singled out for a freeze. We are beginning to see some real momentum in compliance with the current CFATS mandates. The industry has responded pretty well and DHS has taken actions to work with companies to make sure they understand and can meet the standards. DHS has stepped up its review process and has publicly committed to having all inspections for Tier 1 facilities (those with the highest risk factors) completed by the end of the year.

Some of the legislation that is before Congress right now would impose stricter standards for chemical plants and facilities. In particular, the Inherently Safer Technology (IST), portions of H.R. 2868 would mean that some businesses would be required to change their processes or chemicals used. SOCMA's stance is that it could be very detrimental, especially for smaller companies and businesses, and particularly at a time when the economy is still suffering, and unemployment is already high.

We are seeing that costs are a big question for facilities and companies of all sizes when starting to tackle mandates such as CFATS. But, it is harder for smaller companies to add a major capital expenditure and particularly hard if the expenditure is reoccurring. Because the current CFATS laws are risked-based, they offer smaller companies more flexibility to fully comply. It's the reason that it is so important for companies and facilities to be prepared before they put a site security plan together. They need to bring all of the stakeholders together and collect input on challenges and goals.

Small plants and facilities often times believe that they will need to do less to meet the mandates set out by DHS and Congress. But, it really depends on the facility, chemicals of interest and processes, surrounding area, access and the ability to contain any threats. It is not only a matter of size, so smaller businesses can find that the costs of meeting mandates are as higher or higher than some larger plants. That means that small manufacturers can be hit with relatively high costs.

After the November elections we could be looking at a very different make up in Congress that will dramatically affect future laws. In the meantime, it's important for the industry to move forward and continue the excellent work we have begun to protect our workers, the surrounding population and our businesses.

 

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