Jan 7, 2015

President Signs CFATS Reauthorization Bill

ACA , President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 4007, the Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2014. The law reauthorizes the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program for four years. The multi-year reauthorization gives the program a more permanent footing; it had been subject to short-term authorizations in the past. H.R. 4007 passed the House of Representatives on Dec. 11 by voice vote on suspension of the rules; the Senate approved the bill under unanimous consent procedures a day earlier.

Throughout 2014, ACA repeatedly urged Congressional passage of a multi-year CFATS reauthorization bill.

The “Protecting and Securing American Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2014” reauthorizes the CFATS program until 2018, improves management practices and whistleblower protections, and simplifies reporting and information sharing.

ACA believes that the multi-year authorization not only enables DHS to implement CFATS, but also provides industry with the confidence to make important investments, knowing the program will be authorized. ACA believes that the former practice of year-to-year extensions (or worse, short-term continuing resolutions through the appropriations process), is a destabilizing force in the implementation and investment process.

The law addresses some of the major impediments to completing site security plans and full implementation of the program. It restores the principle that facilities have flexibility to choose how to meet personnel surety requirements for access, gives covered facilities the ability to meet site security plans through alternate security plans approved by DHS and an option to use third parties as inspectors, improves Congressional oversight regarding tiering methodology, and ensures better coordination with state and local officials.

ACA believes that multi-year authorization gives DHS just enough guidance to more successfully carry out its duties, while at the same time providing Congress the ability to monitor the program and make any necessary changes to it after the expiration of the multi-year period.

CFATS, which was first authorized under the 2007 DHS Appropriations Act, requires facilities with threshold quantities of particular “chemicals of concern” to complete a “top screen” notifying DHS that they possess such chemicals on site. Once notified, DHS can direct the facility to submit a Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) and it then might assign the facility to one of four tiers based on the potential security threat on site, an action which triggers a requirement to submit an SSP to DHS for authorization and approval.

ACA’s members own and operate paint, coatings, resin, and chemical manufacturing facilities that are potentially subject to the CFATS provisions, and under CFATS’ statutory authority, many ACA members have submitted top screens identifying chemicals of interest and have been assigned preliminary or final tiers by the department. As a result, a number of ACA member companies have become subject to the CFATS Risk-Based Performance Standards. ACA is also a member of the DHS Chemical Sector Coordinating Council, which provides industry views to the Department of Homeland Security on CFATS and other chemical security issues.

Contact ACA’s Allen Irish for more information.