Last week, the Senate Homeland Security Committee voted unanimously to extend the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) for three years to 2013. The 13 – 0 bi-partisan vote was for HR 2868 with an amendment from Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME.
HR 2868 was introduced by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss and was passed by the House in Nov. That version of the bill included an Inherently Safer Technology (IST) provision. As I have said before, the chemical industry is opposed to this provision because it is open to interpretation and it could be costly, especially for smaller facilities and businesses. The Collins’ amendment removes this provision from the bill and adds several other elements including:
- Creating voluntary exercise and training programs
- Establishing a voluntary technical assistance program
- Creating a chemical facility security best practices clearing house
- Establishing an advisory board to advise DHS on implementation and the voluntary technical assistance program
In a press release from Collins office, she praised the current job that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has done with CFATS. Although the standards are only four years old she said it had been a successful collaboration and provided a model for other security-related programs. She also said that the key to its success was the partnership created between owners and operators of chemical facilities and the government.
In general, the industry has been very supportive of this legislation with the Collins amendment included. The National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD), the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) and others have come out in its support.
Still, the bill has to make it to the Senate floor for a vote. The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., has said the bill will need significant modifications to get through the Senate. Some Senators have already said that they will make an effort to reintroduce an IST-type provision in the bill.
It is unlikely that the Senate can bring this to a vote before the summer recess. The House has already adjourned for the summer and the Senate’s last day in session is Aug. 6. From this point, the November elections will be at top of mind for everyone in Washington, D.C. That is evidenced by the fact that the House adjourned a week early to let congressional candidates devote their time to re-election.
It is most likely CFATS will not get much attention for the rest of the year. The program will probably continue for another year through a rider on the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. Facilities that use, store and process chemicals will be able to continue the current work with DHS. If you want to get more information about CFATS and various chemical security regulatory initiatives and compliance go to the web archive, “CFATS Timeline & Latest Regulatory Updates”.Leave a comment