SOCMA And NACD Discuss CFATS Legislative and Policy Updates

We were very pleased to have Elizabeth O’Neil, Government Affairs, National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) and Bill Allmond, VP of Government Relations, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) on a panel at the joint Chemical Security Regulatory Workshop with the Chemical Industry Council of California (CICC) to discuss legislative and policy updates relating to chemical security.

Ms. O’Neil opened the discussion by giving some background on NACD and some of the NACD membership requirements and policy goals. She then provided a brief legislative history of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program and how it got to where it is today.

NACD believes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has done a commendable job of getting the CFATS program off the ground. However, it believes that certain aspects of the program, such as the design of the electronic Site Security Plan (SSP) submission process through the Chemical Security Assessment Tool (CSAT), have created some undue burden on the regulated community. She stressed that NACD members value consistency and being able to anticipate, plan, and budget for CFATS compliance. It therefore hopes that Congress continues the program in its current state for an extended period.

Mr. Allmond then took the stage and discussed some of the difficulties involved in administering the CFATS program without a permanent legislative mandate as well as some of the current CFATS legislation on the table. He explained that unlike the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Air Act, for instance, CFATS has needed to be re-authorized each year through budget appropriation process following its initial 3 year authority which expired in October 2009.

He first reviewed S. 473, the Continuing Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Security Act of 2011, which would extend CFATS for 3 years through October 2015, and create several new programs that would help facilities understand how to implement certain security measures, including the development of a clearinghouse of chemical security best practices.

Next, he discussed H.R. 901, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Security Authorization Act of 2011, which would extend CFATS for 7 years, and was amended to include an industry-opposed provision on personnel surety. It passed earlier this year but was referred to House Energy and Commerce where it basically died.

Finally, he talked about H.R. 908, the Full Implementation of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act, which would extend CFATS for 7 years, and includes an industry-supported amendment that would leverage existing credentials (such as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)) to satisfy CFATS personnel surety requirements. It passed with Republican and Democratic support as well as broad support from industry.

Mr. Allmond believes that House passage of H.R. 901/H.R. 908 looks promising, possibly as soon as late October or early November, though passing it through the Senate is more of long shot. Currently, a simple one year extension of the CFATS program in its present form is included in the Obama Administration’s homeland security budget, and he believes this is the most likely outcome. He however emphasized that short term re-authorizations are no way to run a major security program such as CFATS and hopes that Congress can come together to create permanent – or at least long term – CFATS authorization.

I agree that permanent or long-term CFATS authorization is necessary. DHS has already indicated that there have been terrorist infiltrants in chemical and energy plants. Once Congress provides a stand-alone, long-term CFATS authorization – this will help to strengthen facility security programs and make our country safer by preventing potential terrorist acts. A long-term decision will also enable facilities to predictably budget to support security strategies necessary for complying with the regulation.

Please stay tuned for additional information discussed on the Chemical Workshop panels.

~ Ryan Loughin

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