DHS Outlines Current Administration Wish List for CFATS

During the recent hearings for CFATS legislation H.R. 908 Rand Beers, Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) for the Department of Homeland Security gave testimony. One of the more interesting parts of his testimony included a rundown of the Obama administration's take on CFATS legislation. He outlined what the administration and the department wanted to see in the form of new legislation. That includes support for a permanent authorization of the CFATS program. Beers also pointed out that with any new legislation Congress should give DHS reasonable deadlines for new or added requirements.


Beers also said that the administration supports the use of Inherently Safer Technologies (IST) where possible to enhance the security of chemical facilities. He went on to further explain what the administration would like to see with respect to IST. That includes the following:


• A consistent approach to IST regardless of the sector
• All high-risk facilities (tiers 1-4) should assess IST methods and include that assessment in the facility Site Security Plan (SSP)
• Regulatory entities should have the authority to require tier 1 and 2 facilities to implement IST methods if they will demonstrably enhance the overall security of the facility, if they are feasible and with water sector facilities, they take into account public health and environmental requirements
• For facilities in tiers 3 and 4 regulatory entities would be able to provide recommendations on IST implementation, but would not have the authority to require IST implementation
• For IST implementation the administration is suggesting a flexible and staggered approach for CFATS facilities

Beers went on to discuss what the administration, DHS and EPA sees as a critical gap in CFATS legislation. That is the exemption for drinking water and wastewater facilities. He said the department wants to work with Congress to close this gap and make sure that the chemicals of interest (COIs) at these facilities are secured and the surrounding communities protected. DHS proposes that the EPA would take the lead at regulating these facilities with DHS support. Beers did say that the administration and DHS recognizes that water facilities are different from other chemical facilities and a cease-operations order might put public health and well-being at risk. Because of this he indicated that violations might be treated differently for public water facilities.


Some other things the administration would like to see with any new CFATS legislation is a continuation of the current Chemical-Terrorism Vulnerability Information (CVI) designation to protect sensitive information relating to chemical facility security. The department also favors maintaining the exemptions for both Defense and Energy Department facilities and would like NPPD and the U.S. Coast Guard to determine if and how Maritime Transportation Act regulated facilities should submit Top-Screens as CFATS facilities have.


Lastly, Beers addressed the exemption for facilities regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He said DHS wants to amend that exemption so that DHS and the NRC can work together to look at these facilities to make a final determination on whether a facility or an area within a facility is exempt from CFATS and DHS regulation.


As I have said many times, the chemical industry does not support the administration's position on IST and feels it would be disruptive to the industry and possibly cost U.S. jobs. Most of the recently introduced legislation does not include an IST provision, so it will be interesting to see how much of the administration's wish list is eventually passed into law.

 

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