Democratic lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee raised misgivings about the CFATS reauthorization bill during a subcommittee hearing on the newly proposed legislation.
The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program would gain a standalone authorization for two years under a bill proposed by the House Homeland Security Committee. The authorization bill (H.R. 4007) would make some changes to the CFATS program, such as requiring facility vulnerability to a terrorist attack and economic consequences of an attack to be an explicit part of the risk assessment methodology used to classify chemical facilities.
An outcome of the chemical facility executive order signed by President Obama Aug. 1 could be a consolidated federal database of chemical facilities, a Homeland Security Department official told a House panel while blaming technological difficulties for past inability to share data across organizational lines.
Funding for the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program could be in danger absent "evidence of substantial programmatic improvement," says the chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee in a July 22 letter also signed by two House oversight committees.
Funding for the National Protection and Programs Directorate would overall go down by about an inflation-adjusted 10 percent under the Obama administration's fiscal 2014 budget proposal transmitted to Congress April 10.
It will take the Homeland Security Department between about 7 to 9 years at its current rate to complete the approval process of the security plans submitted via the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, estimates the Government Accountability Office.
The directorate within the Homeland Security Department responsible for regulating chemical facilities for safety paid the Transportation Security Administration $7.7 million to conduct terrorist screening on chemical workers since April 2010 – despite not releasing the notice of proposed rulemaking regarding worker screening until March 22.
The risk methodology is largely based on the consequence to human life that the release or theft of a chemical would cause or on the consequence to lives by sabotage, the GAO says. Watchdog officials find multiple faults with the methodology. Consequence assessment should also consider the direct economic effects, for example, auditors say.
The Homeland Security Department resumed in July inspections of facilities that store or use hazardous chemicals under its Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, said Rand Beers, head of the department's National Protection and Programs Directorate. Beers spoke Sept. 11 during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on environment and the economy.
A new process to review chemical facilities' security plans may determine whether the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program is effective, the Government Accountability Office said July 26. CFATS oversees facilities that store or use hazardous chemicals, and it requires high-risk facilities to develop security plans. But in its 5 years of existence, CFATS has yet to approve a security plan.