A program designed to keep potent chemicals out of terrorists’ hands expired at the end of July—and Congress must reauthorize it now, says the Department of Homeland Security, according to the Associated Press (subscription).
What’s going on: The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards “require[d] any facility that has a certain quantity of any of a long list of ‘chemicals of interest’ to report the information to the Department of Homeland Security. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, which falls under DHS, then determine[d] whether the facility is considered high risk and therefore must develop a security plan.”
- The regulations applied to all facilities using any one of about 300 chemicals—including chlorine and sodium nitrate—in certain quantities.
Why it’s important: Under CFATS, there are approximately 3,200 locations across the U.S. designated as high risk. With the program now lapsed, all facility inspections have been canceled, and companies can no longer access a federal watchlist database they previously used to vet potential hires.
- What’s more, “facilities are no longer required to report chemicals of interest.”
The background: CFATS went into effect in 2007. Up until July, Congress had reauthorized it every few years, but this year the Senate failed to do so following objections from a senator.
What’s being done instead: In the program’s absence, CISA “is diverting staff to a program called ChemLock, which helps companies that use or handle potentially dangerous chemicals keep them secure. But that program is entirely voluntary, so there’s nothing the department can do if companies don’t comply.”
The last word: “The CFATS program is vital to the safety of many manufacturers and the surrounding communities,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Brandon Farris. “The NAM strongly urges the Senate to quickly reauthorize CFATS to help keep Americans safe.”