“The Department supports a permanent authorization and maturation of responsibilities for the CFATS program. Given the complexity of the chemical facility regulation, the Department is committed to fully exploring all issues relating to making the program permanent. The Department is committed to working with Congress and other security partners to pass standalone chemical security legislation that includes permanent authority in FY 2010. Recognizing the time constraints and challenges of passing such comprehensive authorization laws, the President’s FY 2011 budget includes a request for a one-year extension of the statutory authority for CFATS, which will allow the time, if needed, to craft a robust permanent program while avoiding the sunset of the Department’s regulatory authority on October 4, 2010.”
I know that the Department worked closely with the House Homeland Security Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee on HR 2868 last year. I also understand that they are currently working with the Senate Homeland Security Committee to ensure that they will be able to develop workable regulations for whatever legislation becomes law. CFATS legislation will not be as complex as health care reform or global warming legislation, but it is certainly controversial in its own right with widely disparate views of how the program should be managed. With the currently strained and divided political atmosphere in the Senate and a fall election campaign looming for both houses of Congress, it is very possible that final passage of HR 2868 or some alternative CFATS legislation will not happen before October 4th. With that in mind, it surely appears to be prudent for the President to request an additional year extension of the current authority for CFATS. This will ensure that the participants in the CFATS legislative debate can do their work with out the pressure to substitute a CFATS bill that does not address the shortcomings of the current authority just as a means to ‘pass something’ in time. So the word to Senate staffers is: go forth and create a good bill that deals with the legitimate security concerns of all parties; prepare a bill that DHS can enforce with workable regulations, industry can implement without loosing more jobs and will protect chemical workers and their neighbors from potential terrorist attacks on high-risk chemical facilities.