US House and Senate leaders came together this week in 11th-hour bi-partisan approval of a 15-month extension to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program in a decision industry groups hailed as a win.
Both chambers of Congress unanimously approved the extension laid out in HR 251, the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards Program Extension Act, which now awaits a signature from President Donald Trump.
The CFATS program would have expired Thursday, Jan. 17, without intervention.
“ILTA (International Liquid Terminals Association) applauds Congress for extending—on the day it was set to expire—this important security program, which regulates critical chemical facilities to guard against terrorist attack,” said Kathryn Clay, ILTA’s president.
“This 15-month extension gives us the opportunity to make necessary changes to the program, while continuing to ensure the security of facilities that store the highest-risk chemicals.
“For the past decade, ILTA has been the leading voice encouraging the Department of Homeland Security to correct the treatment of gasoline and other fuel blends under the CFATS program. ILTA looks forward to working with Congress and DHS to ensure that fuel blends are treated on par with similar materials under CFATS implementation.”
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) called the extension a win for manufacturers and US national security.
“Manufacturers commend the Congress for working on a bipartisan basis to get this critical legislation across the finish line, which reauthorizes the program for an additional 15 months,” said Laura Berkey-Ames, NAM’s director of energy and resources policy, in a blog post.
“The continuity of the CFATS program without interruption is critical for industry and national security because it ensures manufacturers can confidently make appropriate, economically justifiable, long-term investments to protect high-risk facilities. The bipartisan agreement struck between committee leadership in the House and Senate allowing this important reauthorization to move forward sends a strong message that the United States remains prepared and resilient in the face of the threat of terrorism.”
The House earlier voted in favor of a two-year program extension, without reforms, but Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) initially called that measure “unacceptable,” according to reports. He’s now agreed to a 15-month extension to give Congress more time to work on reforms.
CFATS was enacted in 2007 and is now housed in the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The program applies to a range of facilities, including those used by manufacturers, chemical plants and agricultural businesses, that house or plan to store any substance included on a list of more than 300 flagged chemicals. Many of the flagged substances, such as fertilizers, could be used to create explosive devices.
“Continuing this important program ensures the chemical industry and regulators work together to keep our nation’s chemical facilities secured against potential terrorist attacks,” said Eric Byer, president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD).
“We thank Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) and Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Mike Rogers (R-AL), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Greg Walden (R-OR), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and John Shimkus (R-IL) for making the continuation of the CFATS program a legislative priority.”
“ACC and its members have testified many times in support of establishing a strong foundation for CFATS, and we are committed to continuing our work with Congress to provide CFATS with greater regulatory certainty and to make improvements to the program, including leveraging industry programs and ensuring employee screening focuses on high risk facilities and protects personal data,” said Cal Dooley, president and CEO of ACC.
“We urge President Trump to sign this legislation, which will give Congress time to work on bolstering CFATS and provide the regulatory certainty needed to support the industry’s ongoing efforts to safeguard chemical facilities and communities.”