House Committee Letter Questions Chemical Anti-Terrorism Program

June 13, 2023
As program is set to expire in July, bipartisan group questions CISA's approach to protecting facilities against terrorist attacks.

In a letter dated June 12, a bipartisan U.S. House committee asked the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) several questions about its ability to protect facilities under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, or CFATS, program.

This letter comes ahead of the program’s July 27 renewal date. CFATS regulates facilities possessing chemicals at or above certain levels determined to present "high levels of security risk" and regularly requires them to assess their vulnerabilities and implement security measures to minimize risks of terrorism.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Materials Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson (R-OH), subcommittee ranking member Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Congressman August Pfluger (R-TX) signed the letter.

Specifically, the letter requests that CISA Director Jen Easterly provide additional detail into:

  • What steps has the agency has taken to improve transparency of and understanding about its high-risk tiering process for regulated organizations and what steps CISA has taken to ensure those efforts are working.
  • Efforts CISA has taken in the last three years to change the way it protects chemical-terrorism vulnerability information (CVI) and the agency’s plans related to the treatment of CVI as well as its communication with other federal agencies about the use of CVI as part of its program.
  • Confirmation on whether the agency plans to change the risk methodology, list of chemicals and their thresholds under the program and the purpose for any proposed changes.
  • Confirmation that the agency has fixed all deficiencies identified by the Government Accountability Office and whether the agency is employing training standards for CFATS inspection and compliance officers.
  • What actions CISA’s main office in Washington, D.C., is taking to ensure the regional offices are uniformly implementing CFATS across the country.
  • How the agency is addressing drone activity around CFATS-regulated facilities.
  • Whether the agency has considered how its proposal to reinitiate ammonium nitrate regulations could impact CFATS-regulated facilities, including whether they differ from prior efforts and any steps the agency has taken to understand how the regulation would have on its ability to combat terrorism.

Chemical industry groups, including the National Association of Chemical Distributors and the American Chemistry Council, have called on Congress to reauthorize CFATS.

“As one of the most successful chemical security programs in existence, the CFATS program serves a critical role to our industry by protecting our nation’s high-risk chemical facilities from acts of terror and providing the industry with the stability needed to make important investments,” said Eric Byer, president and CEO of the National Association of Chemical Distributors, in a May 24 news release.