Legislation to protect US chemical plants from terrorist attacks has been extended and renewed for another four years. The bipartisan measure makes a series of key changes to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. For example, it expedites the approval process for site security plans for low risk chemical facilities and also clarifies the emergency shutdown authorities.
Congressman Patrick Meehan, a Republican who chairs a Homeland Security subcommittee for infrastructure protection, called the bill ‘a major breakthrough’. He said Congress has provided ‘smart, binding’ guidelines to improve the CFATS’s operation, measure progress and enhance security. As a result, Meehan said firefighters and emergency workers will be safer when they respond to incidents like the deadly explosion in April 2013 at the West Fertilizer plant in Texas. That accident occurred after a fire erupted and caused approximately 27 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to explode.
This reauthorisation of the CFATS programme will bring certainty to chemical distributors and regulators by providing necessary funding to develop and implement DHS-approved security plans, according to Eric Byer, the president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors.