Senate Passes Bill to Extend CFATS Program until July 2023

On July 1, the U.S. Senate passed a bill, S.4148, to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program to July 27, 2023. This three-year extension measure is timely, as the program is set to expire on July 23, 2020. The CFATS program focuses on preventing chemicals of interest from being stolen, diverted, sabotaged or deliberately released by terrorists or other bad actors. A companion bill is expected to be passed by the House of Representatives in the coming days.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implements the CFATS program under a variety of short-term authorizations by Congress. The last extension was part of the initial Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020. At that time, authorization for the CFATS program was set to expire on April 18, 2020.

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.

ACA has long been a proponent of long-term authorization for CFATS. ACA has repeatedly urged Congress to act swiftly to provide for a multi-year authorization of this critical program, which covers approximately 3,400 chemical facilities assessed to present a risk of terrorist attack or exploitation.

ACA considers CFATS a necessary regulatory scheme to help industry and communities be safer and more secure. ACA is eager to work with Congress and DHS as it considers improvements to the program, which would give industry regulatory certainty and stability to make prudent risk management decisions and investments.

While supporting the CFATS program, ACA has sought updates to the program 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 the majority classified as Tier 4 facilities, while just a few are Tier 3.

Specifically, ACA has sought the following:

  • Greater transparency for CFATS tiering determinations and security plan review;
  • Focus on risk-based determinations for personnel surety requirements;
  • Regular review of the “chemicals of interest” list; and
  • Improved coordination for CFATS with other federal chemical security and safety regulatory programs.

ACA supports the safe handling and use of chemicals, and the structure which CFATS provides to enable that in practice. ACA is also a longstanding member of the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council (CSCC). Organized by DHS, the CSCC expands communication between industry and DHS. Through the CSCC, ACA has advised DHS on how it might develop more effective solutions to implement and improve chemical security.

Contact ACA’s Rhett Cash for more information.

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