Center for American Progress

Securing Our Chemical Facilities Against Terrorism
Testimony

Securing Our Chemical Facilities Against Terrorism

Testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials

P.J. Crowley testifies to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials on the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008.

Hazardous material technicians walk to a decon area after plugging a one-ton chlorine cylinder that was leaking at Allied Universal Corporation in Miami. No one was injured and the poisonous gas was contained to the facility, but chemical plants in 23 states are located in population centers of at least 1 million people, making attractive targets for terrorists. (AP/Lt. Eric Baum)
Hazardous material technicians walk to a decon area after plugging a one-ton chlorine cylinder that was leaking at Allied Universal Corporation in Miami. No one was injured and the poisonous gas was contained to the facility, but chemical plants in 23 states are located in population centers of at least 1 million people, making attractive targets for terrorists. (AP/Lt. Eric Baum)

Read the full testimony (pdf)

Key Points

Chemical security is a significant homeland security vulnerability. Chemical facilities and supply chains fit Al Qaeda’s existing targeting strategy. Iraqi insurgents have made multiple attempts to convert chlorine gas tanker trucks into improvised weapons. Our policy goal should be to reduce the terrorists’ ability to exploit industrial chemicals to the maximum extent possible.

The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, or CFATS, improve the physical security of the status quo, but are not the right long-term solution. CFATS is an interim measure that expires in 2009 and is not comprehensive. It explicitly exempted drinking water facilities from stronger chemical security standards. The existing CFATS program can certainly be improved.

H.R. 5577, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008, establishes a more effective security standard and is a good benchmark for drinking water facilities. It establishes risk tiers, mandates the development of formal security plans, and improves the physical security of these operations. Importantly, it requires chemical facilities to evaluate alternative methods to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack; gives employees at chemical plants an important role; and allows states to set higher security standards. The facility operator is free to evaluate a range of possible actions and chose the one that is safest and most secure. Any action considered must reduce risk to the facility, its employees, and surrounding community; must be performance-based and technically feasible; and must be cost-effective.

Any regulatory framework should require extensive collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security such that it avoids regulatory redundancy or gaps in supply chain security, and ensures equal enforcement for chemical facilities, accountability for government, and protection for existing chemical safety programs.

This is too important an issue to fall victim to interagency or intercommittee rivalries. We need action this year. Given the uncertain budget picture that many cities and states are facing, the federal government must be prepared to provide substantial funds to support this legislation. Any federal funding for conversion to safer and more secure chemicals and processes should be dedicated to publicly owned water treatment facilities.

Read the full testimony (pdf)

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