US chemical facility antiterrorism law likely to be extended

22 March 2011 01:34  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS)--The federal mandate for antiterrorism security measures at US chemical facilities is likely to be extended this year in its current form for as much as five years, a top industry official said on Monday.

Lawrence Sloan, president of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), said he expects that Congress this year will extend the existing Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) for several years without substantive alteration.

Passed by Congress in 2006 and first implemented in 2007, the antiterrorism standards were set to expire in 2009 unless renewed or revised by Congress.

The federal legislature could not reach agreement on revisions in 2009 or 2010, so the existing rules have been continued under successive temporary, short-term extensions.

But, wanting a degree of certainty for the antiterrorism programme, the US chemicals sector would like to see the standards extended as is for several years.

Manufacturers argue that the regulatory system - which governs security measures at some 6,000 US chemical facilities deemed to be at high risk for a potential terrorist attack - has yet to be fully implemented and should be continued without substantive change.

Opponents in Congress argued that the system was too weak and advanced legislation that, among other significant changes, would have given the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authority to impose inherently safer technology (IST) provisions on specific facilities as security measures.

This year, at least three different bills have been introduced in Congress to extend CFATS largely as is for, variously, three, five or even seven years.

“I’d settle for a five-year extension of CFATS in is current form,” Sloan said, noting that there appears to be sufficient backing in Congress to get an as-is extension done soon.

“I think it will be managed this year,” Sloan said, speaking on the sidelines of the annual GlobalChem regulatory conference.

Unlike the more complicated undertaking in Congress to reform and modernise the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), there appears to be fairly broad support on Capitol Hill for an as-is extension of CFATS.

Earlier on Monday, Sloan predicted that Congress would not be able to achieve comprehensive reform of TSCA this year or next.

The extension bills recently introduced in Congress do include some modest changes, including language for a voluntary IST support programme at the department under the CFATS mandate.

In that proposal, the department could offer - but not impose - inherently safer technology measures to companies that request such advice.

The bill sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (Republican-Maine) and others also would include a best-practices information clearing house at the department through which companies could exchange proven antiterrorism security techniques and measures.

“We would be comfortable with that,” Sloan said of the two proposed voluntary provisions for CFATS.

GlobalChem is cosponsored by SOCMA and the American Chemistry Council (ACC).  The conference runs through Wednesday.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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