DHS and chemical industry push for extension of CFATS

The chemical industry and the Department of Homeland Security are teaming up to streamline chemical plant security requirements and encourage lawmakers to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards.

The American Chemistry Council announced earlier in January that it would improve CFATS through a partnership with DHS to strengthen security enhancements at chemical facilities. The federal law that authorizes CFATS expires in March but lawmakers may consider an extension, Inside EPA reports.

David Wulf, the director of DHS' Infrastructure Security Compliance Division, said that the partnership will improve U.S. national security.

"I firmly believe that DHS and the chemical industry have a shared stake in the success of the CFATS program, and - in the 18 months I've had the privilege to serve at ISCD - I've been struck by how dedicated (Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates) members and stakeholders across the chemical and oil/natural gas sectors have been to working with ISCD to foster the security of our nation's highest-risk chemical infrastructure," Wulf said, according to Inside EPA.

Environmentalists disagree with the plan to strengthen CFATS and have urged the Environmental Protection Association to require inherently safer technology at high-risk chemical plants. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can require chemical plants to switch to the use of chemicals that pose less risk in case of release. The CFATS program can exempt facilities and the DHS from putting IST into practice.

Multiple environmental groups released a report on Monday called "The Danger in Our Backyards: The Threat of Chemical Facilities." The report contains findings on the potential of injury and death in case of an accident or terrorist attack at major chemical facilities in populated urban areas.

By reducing the risk of chemicals in the facilities, the environmentalists argue that a potential terrorist attack could result in fewer consequences.

"You can't prevent an attack, you can only prevent the catastrophe that would result," one environmentalist said, according to Inside EPA.

As the deadline approaches for the expiration of CFATS, both sides of the debate plan to enact their differing approaches to chemical security through legislative or regulatory efforts, Inside EPA reports.