Chemical plant securityIndustry: current chemical safety standards sufficient, should be extended

Published 7 March 2012

DHS’s management of the U.S. chemical plant safety has come under criticism lately, but he Society of Chemical Manufactures and Affiliates (SOCMA) said it strongly supports U.S. chemical security standards; the industry associated noted that since the program’s 2007 launch, more than 2,000 facilities have changed processes or inventories such that they are no longer considered high-risk under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS)

In testimony before a House homeland security panel today, the Society of Chemical Manufactures and Affiliates (SOCMA) said it strongly supports U.S. chemical security standards while calling on DHS to increase collaboration with industry and be more transparent about its operations.

Bill Allmond, SOCMA’s vice president of Government and Public Relations, told lawmakers that the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) is a success despite DHS’s management failings that recently came to light. Since the program’s 2007 launch, more than 2,000 facilities have changed processes or inventories such that they are no longer considered high-risk under CFATS. Hundreds of other regulated facilities have already made significant proactive security investments in anticipation of compliance. Allmond noted that  SOCMA members alone have invested approximately $515 million in safeguarding their plants.

The hearing before the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection & Security Technologies was aimed at addressing the program’s challenges and finding a way forward.

As the subcommittee and others assess the CFATS program, we must bear in mind that it is processes and personnel that need addressing, not the program itself,” Allmond said. He added that the problems holding back CFATS implementation are “serious but not insurmountable.”

To get the program back on track, Allmond urged DHS to embrace greater collaboration with industry, provide more operational transparency, simplify the “personnel surety program,” and avoid further discussion on mandating product substitution. Allmond said it was evident that DHS will also need to retrain and likely replace much of the staff that administers the CFATS program.

SOCMA says that failure to achieve long-term or permanent reauthorization has also been one of the greatest challenges to the program’s future success. The organization noted that it continues to support a long-term extension of the standards to allow DHS and the regulated community to come fully into compliance.

“The key to fixing CFATS is vigorous oversight, not budgetary uncertainty or budget cuts,” Allmond explained.

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