Saturday, January 5, 2019

HR 251 Introduced – CFATS Extension

Yesterday Rep. Thompson (D,MS) introduced HR 251, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Program (CFATS) Extension Act. While an official copy of the bill is not currently available, a copy is available from the Majority Leader’s web site as the bill will be considered on the floor Tuesday under suspension of the rules. This is essentially a re-introduction of HR 7188 from the last session with a change in the sponsor. That late bill did not see any action in the House.

This bill is a ‘clean extension’ of the CFATS program. It would amend 6 USC 621 Note (Effective and Termination Dates) by changing “4 years” to “6 years”. This would change the program expiration date from January 17th, 2019 to January 17th, 2021.

Moving Forward

Thompson is the Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and his seven cosponsors include:

• Rep. Rogers (R,AL) – Ranking Member, HS Committee;
• Rep. Richmond (D,LA) – Chair, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Sub-Committee;
Rep. Pallone (D,NJ) – Chair, House Energy and Commerce Committee;

This bill will have widespread, bipartisan support in the House and the Senate. The bill will pass in the House this week. The big question is will it be stalled in the Senate by Sen. Johnson, the Chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Johnson made it clear last session that he opposed any CFATS extension that did not include program reforms. At this point it is not clear what his intentions are with respect to this bill.


The two-year clean extension is almost certainly necessary to provide time for the three committees (two in the House) to work out a deal so that a long-term extension of the bill can be passed in both houses.

Johnson clearly want business friendly reforms to the program including a removal of explosives from the chemicals covered by CFATS and the use of industry recognition programs to reduce inspection requirements. The first of those is opposed by DHS. We have not had any recent public declarations of the House Democrats desires for program reforms, but in the past there has been interest in provisions that would address whistleblower protections, employee involvement in facility security planning, and implementation of inherently safer technology to reduce risk. Last year in the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing there was also a lot of interest in expanding the emergency response planning and community communication processes in the CFATS program.

It is going to be interesting to see how the House and Senate work together on these issues. For the next two years, at least, the Senate will be tending to represent the interests of business organizations and the House will be supporting advocates for workers and the environment. Unfortunately, too many people think this makes for a zero sum game where a win for one side must be a loss for the other.

And we cannot forget the wildcard that hangs over all of this; President Trump. Anyone that thinks that they can predict how the President will react when legislation is placed before him for signature is kidding themselves. Currently, the President has made no comment about the CFATS program and may not even know that it exists. Keeping the conflicts between the House and Senate low-key will go a long way to keeping the President out of the conflict.

NOTE: I found the copy of HR 251 while going through and updating my links to House web sites for the 116th Congress. Lots of changes already made; more to come.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */