Senator’s opposition ends US chem plant security programme

Al Greenwood


HOUSTON (ICIS)–Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky) blocked a bill that would re-authorise a US programme that addresses terrorism and site security, allowing it to expire at the end of Thursday.

Paul conditioned his support for the re-authorisation bill on an amendment that would create what he called a duplicative scoring system for every future proposal brought before legislators. The system would determine how many programmes in the bill are duplicated by ones that already exist in the government.

“I urge my colleagues to support my amendment, which would continue the programme, allow it to be re-authorised, but at the same time, begin having a duplication score on every new proposal,” Paul said in a speech.

Senate approval of the chemical site-security bill was the next step needed before it could be signed into law by the president.

The House of Representatives had passed its version of the re-authorisation bill, HR 4470, on 25 July. Its bill would extend the programme by two years.

With the expiration of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) programme, it will be disbanded. The federal personnel would be dispersed to other parts of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the branch of the federal government that oversees CFATS.

“Now that the programme has regrettably expired, our nation’s sensitive chemical facilities have the difficult challenge of navigating a wide range of national security risks – including physical, cyber and emerging artificial intelligence risks – on their own,” said Eric Byer, CEO of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD). “The industry will be left to manage these threats without the invaluable insight and partnership with the US Department of Homeland Security.”

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said: “The loss of CFATS creates immediate risks and problems by limiting the ability to vet personnel, increasing exposure to cyber threats and opening the door to a patchwork of federal and state regulations.”

It added: “Congress must get back to work immediately to reinstate CFATS to help keep our industry and America safe.”

For months, chemical trade groups have been warning legislators about the importance of the programme. They made its re-authorisation a policy priority.

Rand questioned the need of the CFATS programme, which was created in response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.

“How did it work before the government got involved?” Paul asked. “Well, companies had to insure things. If you had a hundred million dollar electric plant and it was at risk for sabotage or fire or disruption to the community, you had insurance, and insurance required that you have a fence.”

He added, “My guess is that if the programme didn’t exist, they would still have fences and barbed wire and protections against terrorism because they want to protect their investment.”

Paul feared that the bill was being rushed through the Senate. He said there were no hearings about CFATS or whether it was effective. “We tend to re-authorise things without ever examining whether they work, what works and what doesn’t work.”

Paul raised concerns about the country’s finances and further straining them by re-authorising a programme that duplicates many other existing ones in the government.

Paul cited a 2021 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found some duplication between CFATS and other programmes.

According to that study, at least 16% of the sites subject to the CFATS programme are subject to other federal programmes.

Out of seven GAO recommendations, five have been implemented. The remaining two concerned cybersecurity, which falls under the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the DHS.

Paul worried about regulations creating cumbersome burdens that would slow down growth of existing companies and prevent new ones from starting up and entering the market.

“This is why, a lot of times, big businesses like regulations,” he said. “Regulations become a formidable barrier to new companies.”


Global News + ICIS Chemical Business (ICB)

See the full picture, with unlimited access to ICIS chemicals news across all markets and regions, plus ICB, the industry-leading magazine for the chemicals industry.

Contact us

Partnering with ICIS unlocks a vision of a future you can trust and achieve. We leverage our unrivalled network of industry experts to deliver a comprehensive market view based on independent and reliable data, insight and analytics.

Contact us to learn how we can support you as you transact today and plan for tomorrow.