Budget proposes extension to chemical facility anti-terror standards

Under the White House's proposed fiscal 2011 budget proposal, current chemical facility anti-terrorism standards will be extended one year while a bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation to reauthorize CFATS for five years.

The one-year extension to CFATS will expire on Oct. 4 and is set to maintain progress on security measures for chemical plants.

CFATS was enacted in 2006 by the Department of Homeland Security to set minimum security standards for chemical facilities, which are viewed as prime targets for terror attacks seeking to use the United States' infrastructure against it. An attack on a chemical facility would potentially create an even larger explosion and cause environmental damage and loss of life.

More than 24,000 chemical facilities have been rated as a result of CFATS with more than 6,000 termed high risk, which requires the drafting and submission of site security plans to protect against attacks.

Representatives of the chemical industry applauded Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) for their proposed House bill HR 2868, which was passed on Nov. 6 and sets stiff new standards. The bill has not grained traction in the Senate.

"This bipartisan, common-sense legislation ensures chemical facilities remain on the top of their game in guarding against a potential terrorist attack," Sen. Pryor told Homeland Security Today.

The House bill seeks to extend chemical security standards to drinking water and wastewater facilities while setting conditions for reviews that could lead the U.S. government to mandate the use of inherently safer technology at chemical facilities.