How Did the Election Affect CFATS?

Right before the elections, CFATS legislations was at a stand still. Just about a year ago the house passed HR. 2868 introduced by Bennie Thompson, D. Miss. That bill would have made CFATS mandates permanent, but it also includes an Inherently Safer Technology (IST) provision that would require some chemical facilities and plants to substitute chemicals and alter processes. As we have discussed before a companion bill was introduced in the Senate and Susan Collins (R. ME.) introduced another bill with bi-partisan support that would extend CFATS until 2015 in its present form without any IST element.

The November elections became the focus of attention in Washington and movement on the CFATS bills ground to a halt. As everyone knows the mid-term elections brought a lot of changes. The Republicans took back control of the house and made gains in the Senate. The incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee will be Peter King (R. NY). It is unlikely that congress will be able to move on chemical security legislation before this congress ends in December. So, it is will fall to the new Congress to take up the issue. King has already said that any permanent anti-terrorism security mandates of U.S. chemical companies will not include language that dictates manufacturing decisions such as IST.

King has said that his committee will take up the permanent authorization of CFATS "to give a sense of real continuity." He seems committed to the current program run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and interested in letting DHS and the chemical industry continue the work they have started.

HR. 2868 would also give private citizens the opportunity to file complaints or petitions with DHS to force the department to take action against chemical plants or facilities. For example, a citizen could file a complaint against a chemical facility claiming that security is not adequate. DHS would then be required to investigate and take action. King has indicated that under his chairmanship that provision would be removed from any bill surrounding CFATS. He said that under his leadership he would work to make sure that DHS is not open to unnecessary ligation.

So, for now it looks like CFATS will continue as part of the budget and that the new 112th Congress will have to tackle the issue in January. Stay tuned.


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