Sep 19, 2018

Senate Introduces Bill to Reauthorize CFATS program for Five Years

(ACA) On Sept. 4, a bill to reauthorize for five years the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was introduced in the U.S. Senate. S. 3405, The Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act, would extend CFATS beyond the current January 2019 sunset date. A companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives has yet to be introduced.

CFATS is an important program aimed at preventing chemicals from being stolen, diverted, sabotaged, or deliberately released by terrorist or other bad actors. DHS CFATS regulations were issued as a final rule in November 2007; however, DHS implements the CFATS program under a variety of short-term authorizations by Congress.

Under CFATS, chemical facilities possessing more than a threshold amount of specific explosive, toxic, or other "chemicals of interest" determined by DHS, are required to complete a "top-screen," notifying DHS that they possess such chemicals on site. Once a facility submits its top-screen, DHS can direct the facility to submit a Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA). The SVA provides the basis for DHS to assign the facility to one of four tiers: Tiers 1 and 2 being the highest risk, and Tiers 3 and 4 being the lowest. Tier assignment triggers a requirement to submit a Site Security Plan (SSP) or an Alternative Security Plan (ASP) to DHS for authorization and approval.

CFATS currently covers approximately 3,400 chemical facilities, which have been assessed to present a risk of terrorist attack or exploitation.

In addition to reauthorizing CFATS for five years, the proposed legislation also reforms the current CFATS program in the following ways:

  • Grants a request by the explosives industry to be exempted from the requirements in favor of existing regulations by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives;
  • Prevents DHS from inspecting a facility more often than once every two years, or every three years if it's in a new voluntary recognition program;
  • Allows Tier 3 and Tier 4 facilities to opt out from a requirement that they submit employee information to be screened for terrorist ties; and
  • Requires DHS to conduct a formal rulemaking if it adds new chemicals to the program and would give facility operators more information explaining how they were evaluated for security risk.

These changes comport with some of the effective solutions ACA suggested to implement and improve chemical security. ACA submitted recommendations to Congress for CFATS enhancements compiled from ACA's member companies, who own and operate paint, coatings, resin, or chemical manufacturing facilities. Some of these facilities are subject to CFATS, with a clear majority being classified as Tier 4 facilities, while just a few are Tier 3.