House Subcommittee Supports CFATS Extension

Last week I told you about a hearing scheduled for Friday, Feb. 11 called "Preventing Chemical Terrorism: Building a Foundation of Security at Our Nation's Chemical Facilities." It was held by the U.S. House Homeland Subcommittee on Cyber Security, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies.

What came out of it is most of the lawmakers agreed that CFATS mandates should be extended and the program should continue to be administered by DHS. As the subcommittee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said the extension would do two things.

1 - Let the private sector chemical facilities know that the mandates are in place and will not change from year to year.

2 - Provide certainty for DHS that Congress believes chemical security is a priority for years to come

No legislation was introduced at or after the event, but according to an unnamed Congressional aide, they are looking at a seven year extension which would take CFATS out to 2018. Democrats Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) also expressed support for the CFATS program and for an extension of the mandates.

Hon. Rand Beers, Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate, Department of Homeland Security was one of the witnesses to testify at this hearing. He said that the chemical industry has acted to make facilities more secure. He said that more than 1,800 facilities have completely removed the Chemicals of Interest (COIs) or lowered the amount of those chemicals so that they no longer are considered high risk.

Beers also said the Obama administration favors permanent authorization of the CFATS mandates, but would like to include some provisions for what it sees as gaps in the legislation.

Lungren and some of the other legislators did show some disappointment in the slow progress that has been made in final approvals for Site Security Plans (SSPs). But Beers from DHS pointed out that the agency started with a list of more than 47,000 facilities and that DHS has learned a lot along the way about chemical facility security. Beers says that inspections for all first tier facilities should be completed by the end of this year.

The Society for Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA), the American Chemical Council (ACC) and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) all provided the hearing with written testimony calling for the extension of CFATS.

Timothy Scott, chief security officer for the Dow Chemical Co. also a witness, expressed support for the program and the progress it has made. He pointed out that the chemical industry has taken these mandates and the job of becoming more secure very seriously and has moved quickly to make substantive changes.

 

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