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What does the future hold for chemical security regulations?

It’s hard to believe that ten years have gone by since the Department of Homeland Security adopted the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). Not all of those years were easy ones and the program has had its fair share of challenges along the way.

As Compliance Division Director David Wulf pointed out to a packed house at the Chemical Sector Security Summit, “like most 9-year-olds we had our growing pains.” He went on to tell the audience that the program has recently made great strides and is now delivering solid results.

Flashback to 2013 when the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report outlining a series of problems with CFATS. At that time, GAO said that it would take the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) many years to fix the program and complete its review of chemical facilities.

During his remarks, Wulf said that DHS has righted the ship and eliminated its regulatory backlog ahead of GAO’s prediction. You can see the results for yourself by checking the latest CFATS fact sheet from DHS, which shows that the Department has reviewed plans and completed inspections for thousands of facilities.

Wulf went on to explain that CFATS has “built a true culture of chemical security across industries that are too diverse to list.” He said the program’s newfound success has also caught the eye of other countries and is now being looked to as model to improve chemical security around the world, most notably in Europe.

Much of the credit for this turnaround can be attributed to the strong leadership of Under Secretary Suzanne Spaulding, Assistant Secretary Caitlin Durkovich, Director Wulf and the significant efforts by their team. The real progress began when the group dedicated themselves to work more closely with the regulated community to shore up the foundation of CFATS and to make key improvements to the program, including the implementation of the Personnel Surety Program. And, Wulf indicated that more changes are coming. He said that DHS would be proposing some significant modifications to CFATS before the end of the year.

While the future looks better for CFATS thanks to some recent successes, its future is not entirely certain. After a series of short-term extensions the program is set to expire at the end of 2018, and Congress will need to revisit the value of CFATS and its decision to continue the program. A great way for DHS to help keep the program on track and meet congressional expectations would be to stick with what is working–actively engaging with stakeholders. Together, we can keep moving the program forward and keep enhancing security for workers and communities across the country.

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