House passes bill that would improve security at chemical facilities

The House of Representatives approved legislation introduced by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) on Tuesday that would strengthen security standards at high-risk chemical facilities.

The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Program Authorization and Accountability Act would authorize and codify the Department of Homeland Security’s CFATS program.

“This bipartisan bill is simple,” Meehan, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said. “It makes Americans safer by improving security standards at thousands of chemical facilities across our nation. The explosion in West, Texas, last year demonstrated how catastrophic an attack on one of these facilities would be. It is vitally important that we ensure our first responders have adequate knowledge of where these facilities are located.”

The measure would require Department of Homeland Security to work with states, local governments and industry associations to eliminate off-the-grid facilities. The Department of Homeland Security would also be required to establish a methodology to carry out risk assessments of the facilities.

“For the past four years, CFATS has relied on appropriations, with no official guidance or authorizing statute from Congress,” Meehan previously said. “From implementation problems, to management flaws, to insufficient feedback from facilities – highlighted in the aftermath of the explosion in West, Texas – CFATS has had a rocky start.”

The bill would allow for the automatic approval of alternative site security plans. The Department of Homeland Security would also have authority to permit third-party audits and inspections.