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Industrial Safety

Chemical industry associations urge federal antiterrorism support

US trade groups seek reauthorization of chemical facility standards law

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
January 18, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 2


A chemical plant stands behind a fence topped with barbed wire.
Credit: Shutterstock

Executives from several chemical industry associations are pushing for reauthorization of a 15-year-old law that lets a federal agency require chemical companies to make efforts to combat terrorism.

The executives made the unusual request for greater federal regulation at a Jan. 16 briefing.

The law, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, expired last July. It requires some 3,200 high-risk industrial facilities that use significant amounts of dangerous chemicals to take security and antiterrorism actions, and it calls for oversight by inspectors and auditors from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

CFATS requires industrial facilities that make, use, or store specified quantities of any of more than 300 chemicals to assess their risks and submit site security plans to the DHS for review and approval. The facilities must then implement protective measures based on their level of risk.

The law was created in 2007 to address fears that chemical companies using potentially lethal chemicals could become inviting terrorist targets. Last July, reauthorization was caught in a dispute in the Senate after it had cleared the House of Representatives 409–1. The dispute was not resolved, and the bill, which would simply extend the current law, died.

The novelty of industry advocating for greater government regulation and inspections was not lost on speakers at the briefing.

“I spend a good portion of my day job pushing back against federal regulatory overreach, but this is a unique situation in which regulators and industry are aligned,” said Chris Jahn, CEO of the American Chemistry Council. “Our companies should not be forced to go it alone; we need a partner that can provide threat information and security expertise.”

In particular, Jahn said the industry can’t replace the DHS in identifying and vetting potential terrorists. He is also concerned that states and other agencies will move to fill the DHS’s role, creating a patchwork of security oversight. Several speakers singled out the concern that the Environmental Protection Agency might step into the gap and take on the security function.

There is currently no legislation in the House or Senate on reauthorization, but the ACC is urging congressional leaders to include reauthorization language in a must-pass spending package this year.



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