House passes CFATS authorization bill

The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a bill that would provide a three-year authorization for the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. The proposed legislation will now move to Senate for approval.

Although it was first enacted nearly eight years ago, the Department of Homeland Security had made little progress until recently in actually implementing the CFATS program, which calls for the agency to sign off on security plans at chemical facilities and perform inspections to verify that the appropriate measures have been implemented. Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this year, Suzanne Spaulding, undersecretary, national protection and programs directorate at DHS, said that just two years ago, the agency hadn’t approved a single site security plan or compliance inspection. However, she said the agency has since approved more than 760 site security plans, completed 31 compliance inspections and more 1,000 authorization inspections.

In a previous interview with SIW, Jennifer Gibson, vice president of regulatory affairs for the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD), said that the passage of a longer term authorization bill to fund CFATS would ensure that the progress that has been made over the past couple of years continues.

“That would be helpful because it would give a lot more certainty to the program and what they’re looking at now is an authorization of about three years, so at least that would tell both DHS and the industry that this program is going to be around for a while and the efforts being made will be recognized,” she said.  

"We applaud House leadership for recognizing the importance of this critical legislation in bringing it for a vote today," NACD President Eric R. Byer said in a statement. "Congressman (Patrick) Meehan's tireless efforts to strengthen national security and provide certainty to the chemical distribution industry are a testament to his commitment to protecting our communities while ensuring a healthy business environment. NACD now urges the Senate to take up legislation that would cement the hard-fought gains the House accomplished today."