Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Discusses Critical Chemical Security Program

March 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Thursday convened a legislative hearing to discuss H.R. 908, a bill to extend the authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security to maintain the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program.

Subcommittee members Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Gene Green (D-TX) introduced this bipartisan bill to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program (CFATS) for seven years, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to continue its anti-terrorism security efforts at chemical plants across the country. The Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over chemical security regulations and the existing CFATS program.  The language of the originally enacted program from the 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations Act was introduced as a stand-alone bill in the 109th Congress and referred solely to the committee.

Chemical plant security is a national security priority. Multiple witnesses voiced their support for H.R. 908 as a means to implement effective and more permanent long-term chemical security standards. Representatives from the chemical and manufacturing industries testified to the success of the CFATS program and urged Congress to act now and pass a reauthorization law that would provide a signal of clarity to U.S. businesses.

William Allmond from the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates praised the effectiveness of the performance-based regulation and stated, "Congress can best assure the CFATS program's continued success and forward momentum by passing H.R. 908. This bill would reauthorize CFATS through 2017, thus allowing DHS and facilities to concentrate on successfully implementing that regulation through completion." Allmond went on to say, "Without the assurance of a long-term authorization of these regulations, companies run risk of investing costly activities today that might not satisfy the regulatory standards of tomorrow."

Rand Beers, Undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security expressed support for the maturation of the CFATS program and explained the broad scope of industries impacted by chemical security regulation, stating, "Just beyond the chemical manufacturers themselves, this affects warehouses and distributors, oil and gas operators, hospitals, semiconductor manufacturers, paint manufacturers, colleges and universities, some pharmaceuticals, and some parts of the agriculture industry. And I'm not finished with the list but that certainly should give people an indication of how broadly this part law impacts companies and facilities across the country."

Chairman Shimkus believes that continuation of the CFATS program is not only critical to our national security but it is also crucial for our economy, noting, "H.R. 908 will allow our anti-terrorism security efforts at chemical facilities across the country to remain strong and the law underpinning them to remain in effect.  At the same time it gives DHS time to fully implement this law, but most importantly, it provides a signal of clarity to businesses that they will not face uncertainty; fostering job creation and getting our economy back on track."

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