The Agricultural Retailers Association applauded the Senate and the House for passing H.R. 4007, the "Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Program Authorization and Accountability Act of 2014".
On Oct. 4, 2013, the authorization for CFATS, expired leaving an absence of regulatory authority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to administer or enforce the program. During this time, the CFATS program had no statutory authority to require security measures at high-risk facilities because of the program's attachment to the appropriations cycle.
ARA was the first trade association to engage the House Homeland Security Committee to draft a bill divorcing the program's funding from the appropriations cycle.
"Due to the government shutdown it is imperative that the CFATS program be able to stand on its own, conduct inspections and provide regulatory certainty," said ARA Public Policy Counsel Michael Kennedy. "This bill accomplish that goal and more."
The bill was first introduced by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Penn.) and passed the House of Representatives in resounding bipartisan fashion this summer.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), ranking member of the committee, passed the bill through committee with full bi-partisan support and unanimous consent.
On Nov. 13, ARA called on the Senate and the House to pass the important legislation by the holidays and testified before the House Homeland Security Committee on improving the CFATS. Agricultural retailers account for a large portion of the lower risk (Tier 3 and 4) facilities that fall under CFATS regulations.
"As a vital private industry stakeholder, ARA has worked closely with DHS to create a program that protects our critical infrastructure from a terrorist attack while allowing the flexibility to supply farmers in an effective and timely manner," said ARA President & CEO Daren Coppock. "DHS's leadership has made great strides in reforming the CFATS program, and our joint efforts deserve long-term authorization."
ARA along with other members of the CFATS coalition such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Chemistry Council, wrote a coalition letter to members of the Senate urging them to pass the measure by the end of year.
"ARA commends the Senate on taking up CFATS legislation and placing it on the President's desk by the holidays," Coppock added.
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security. This multi-year authorization will give DHS the time and stability it needs to improve its implementation, but at the same time, will ensure that Congress has the ability to monitor the program and make any necessary changes to it before the next authorization.