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Congress must provide a strong foundation for chemical security regulations

When things start to go right they tend to not receive much attention in Washington, and such is the case with current efforts to improve the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS).

In a major milestone for the program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved the 750th site security plan this month. In its seven-year history, CFATS has had some challenges with implementation, but DHS has made great strides towards improving the program, which is starting to deliver some solid results.

Much of the credit for this accomplishment belongs to the new leadership at DHS that is in charge of the program. In particular, Under Secretary Suzanne Spaulding and Director David Wulf deserve recognition for working through a long list of problems and renewing the partnership with stakeholders to seek solutions.

Now, it’s up to Congress to help keep CFATS on track and provide the statutory foundation and stability the program has lacked since its inception. The House is already off to a good start by passing H.R. 4007, the “Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Authorization and Accountability Act of 2014.” Committee on Homeland Security Chairman McCaul has put together and shepherded this solid piece of legislation that will go a long way to bolster the ongoing effort to jump start CFATS.

And earlier this month, the Senate took a step in the right direction by holding an oversight hearing on CFATS. Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Carper and Senator Coburn are to be commended for leading a very constructive hearing that focused on addressing the key issues that will enhance security and give DHS the tools it needs to get the job done and protect our communities.

Representing ACC and The Dow Chemical Company at the Senate hearing, Tim Scott explained that DHS has addressed many of the initial challenges that come with implementing a program as complex and ambitious as the CFATS program, such as improving the quality of inspections and the pace of implementation. He urged members to support a multi-year authorization of the program to ensure stability for both the chemistry industry and DHS:

[quote]A multi-year authorization puts DHS and CFATS closer in line to the industry’s capital planning process and allows some certainty for industry to take action. A multi-year authorization also brings stability to DHS—in planning and implementing CFATS and also staffing to be sure the necessary expertise is in place and will remain in place—to accomplish the mission.[/quote]

To help keep the program pointed in the right direction, Mr. Scott outlined the areas of CFATS that need continued improvement, including the Personnel Surety Program, better risk determinations, increased transparency, and the leveraging of industry security plans, such as ACC’s Responsible Care® program and its Security Code.

ACC helped lead the charge for adopting federal chemical security regulations and has continued to work with DHS to make CFATS more effective. That’s why last year ACC developed new tools, including the Alternative Security Program Guidelines and Template, in an effort to enhance the process for developing and reviewing security plans under CFATS. In fact, ACC won praise from DHS for making them available to all regulated facilities.

Additionally, David Wulf, Director of Infrastructure Security Compliance Division at DHS, noted that industry has demonstrated its commitment to safeguarding facilities and communities by supporting CFATS in his verbal testimony at the same Senate hearing:

[quote]A number of industry organizations have been instrumental in promoting the continued forward progress of CFATS. The American Chemistry Council has been a leader in the development of an Alternative Security Program template…and has for years played a critical role in educating chemical companies about CFATS and other regulatory and voluntary programs that foster chemical facility security.[/quote]

Over the past year, DHS and industry have been working hard to make sure CFATS delivers better results. To help ensure those efforts can continue, we urge Congress to work with Chairmen McCaul and Carper as well as Senator Coburn to approve legislation and authorize this important program.

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