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Changes to Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards in a Struggling Economy
9:51 AM MST | January 12, 2009 | By STEVE ROBERTS
One of the issues facing the 111th Congress and the incoming Obama Administration is the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) – regulations that are set to expire in October. A variety of options have been floated, including simply re-authorizing the law in its current form. Opponents who say that CFATS – as currently written – is too weak have urged lawmakers to revamp the law and strengthen it by adding provisions for Inherently Safer Technology, among other things.
All of this comes as chemical facilities are still working their way through the CFATS process. Last summer, the 7,000 plus facilities that were identified as preliminarily high-risk by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began conducting a required security vulnerability assessment. On January 12th, the last of those assessments were submitted for DHS review. Later this year, a subset of those facilities (i.e., those that remain categorized as high-risk) will begin developing a Site Security Plan (SSP) for eventual submission to, and approval by, DHS.
Most of these facilities have existing security measures in place, but everyone involved acknowledges that more equipment, procedures, and training will be necessary. How much these measures will cost remains unclear, but it will likely top several billion dollars based on reasonable estimates (including the government’s own estimates).
As the economy continues to weaken and chemical sales plummet, however, the chemical industry faces a dilemma that had only been considered rhetorically: how to keep facilities open while paying for the new security measures. Opponents of more aggressive federal security regulations have always used the bogey man of closed chemical plants as an argument against them. Today, chemical facilities are being closed or taken off line because of the general downturn in the economy. More now than ever, CFATS 2.0 cannot proceed without a frank dialogue about the costs.
Steve Roberts is an attorney who assists chemical and petrochemical companies comply with homeland security regulations, such as CFATS. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org