Key House panel approves 7-year extension of anti-terrorism rules

26 May 2011 23:58  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday approved a seven-year extension of the existing federal mandate for anti-terrorism security measures at chemical plants, a move welcomed by industry officials.

The committee approved HR-908 to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) largely as-is to 2018. 

The measure was sponsored by Representatives Tim Murphy (Republican-Pennsylvania) and Gene Green (Democrat-Texas) and had broad bipartisan support.

“Today’s vote is an endorsement by Republicans and Democrats alike that the current chemical security standards are appropriately securing chemical facilities against attack,” said Bill Allmond, vice president for government relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA).

SOCMA and other major chemical sector trade groups had opposed efforts by the White House and some in Congress to expand the CFATS regulations, chiefly by including an inherently safer technology (IST) requirement.

Producers had opposed such a mandate for fear it would give regulators at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authority to force changes in feedstocks, processes or even end-products at a given plant.

The chemicals industry also had sought a long-term extension of the existing rules so that manufacturers would be facing a consistent policy instead of year-by-year extensions that carried the possibility of perhaps annual rules adjustments by Congress.

Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), also hailed the committee action, saying it “provides manufacturers with regulatory certainty and a stable framework for the future”.

The bill approved on Thursday included an amendment that recognises security clearances granted under a separate federal anti-terrorism measure as sufficient under CFATS for workers visiting chemical plants.

That amendment means that truck drivers and other personnel who have security clearances under the federal Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) system could enter chemical facilities covered by CFATS without a separate and additional security screening.

A similar CFATS extension bill, HR-901, is pending before the House Homeland Security Committee. That measure would extend the existing programme for six years, instead of the seven-year run provided in HR-908.

Statutory authority for the current CFATS programme is to expire on 30 September this year, but Allmond said he expects Congress will approve one or the other of the multi-year extension bills before that deadline.

Thursday’s committee action also was welcomed by the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD).

NACD president Chris Jahn said he was “pleased by the certainty of a clean, long-term extension of CFATS”.

By: Joe Kamalick
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