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Hearing Reviews Chemical Facility Security Regs and Talks ISTs

02/18/2011 -A hearing conducted last week on chemical security found witnesses agreed that the government's regulatory scheme has been a success, although government and chemical industry officials squared off on whether mandating safer technologies or processes is smart public policy.

Under theChemical Facility Anti-terrorism Standards(CFATS) program, chemical facilities work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a security program based on a facility’s risk level. The program, which was established in 2007, will expire at the end of this year. Lawmakers from the House's Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies Subcommitteecalled upon witnesses to give their opinions of the program and recommend whether it should be made permanent.

Rand Beers, undersecretary of the national protection and programs directorate for the DHS, testified about the CFATS program and its successes. According to Beers, the program covers 4,755 high-risk facilities across all 50 states. Of these, more than 4,000 have submitted security plans and DHS is currently in the process of reviewing these plans. To help guide facilities, DHS has completed more than 175 inspections of high-risk facilities in advance of approving security plans.

“The department intends to use these initial inspections to help gain a comprehensive understanding of the processes, risks, vulnerabilities, response capabilities, security measures and practices, and any other factors that may be in place at a regulated facility that affect security risk in order to help facilities submit a [security plan] that can be approved under CFATS,” said Beers.

Representatives for chemical facilities praised the government’s efforts and expressed support for the CFATS program.

Timothy J. Scott, chief security officer and corporate director of emergency services and security for The Dow Chemical Company, spoke on behalf of Dow and the American Chemistry Council. Scott called CFATS a success. He attributed this success to the fact that security is addressed in context and that the specific needs of each facility are taken into account.

“The accountability within the program drives facilities to consider all potential risk-reduction options, including potential process safety improvements, when developing a site security plan,” said Scott. “Just as important, it leaves the decision of how to meet the standards to the site’s discretion and subject to DHS approval of the site security plan. The result is a security plan approved by DHS that is uniquely and appropriately designed by the site to address the specific risk issues of each individual facility and meet the performance standards of DHS.”

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