Congress passed legislation last week that will reauthorize a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) antiterrorism program for chemical plants for four years. President Barack Obama was expected to sign the measure into law.
The bill (H.R. 4007) will extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, which DHS created in 2007 under a congressional directive.
It requires industrial facilities that make, use, or store threshold quantities of any of more than 300 hazardous chemicals to assess their risks and submit site security plans to DHS for review and approval. The department then requires the facilities to implement protective measures based on their level of risk.
To address a backlog of site security plans awaiting DHS review, the legislation creates a procedure to expedite the approval of security plans for facilities deemed lower risk by the department. Other changes include whistle-blower protections for plant employees who report unsafe conditions and a role for union representatives to participate in decisions related to plant security.
Securing a multiyear reauthorization of CFATS has been a high priority for the chemical industry, which wants more regulatory certainty for its operations. Congress has been continuing the program year to year through the appropriations process.
“We applaud Congress for coming together to pass a long-term solution for regulating security that will help create a stronger foundation for CFATS,” says the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group.