U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tom Carper (D-DE), and James Lankford (R-OK) have introduced bipartisan legislation to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, which is set to expire on July 27th.
The CFATS program was created after national security experts recognized a security vulnerability among chemical facilities following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing. These facilities often store substances that can threaten the safety of our communities if deliberately misused. In fact, terrorists are more likely to use industrial and other commercially available chemicals, many of which are found in facilities across the United States, than sophisticated nerve agents such as sarin due to their widespread prevalence, relatively simple pathway to weaponization, and potential to cause serious harm. CFATS has been extended with bipartisan support by Congress four times – including most recently in 2020 through efforts led by Peters, Lankford and Carper.
“Commonly used chemicals can pose significant risks to public health and safety if they get into the wrong hands,” said Senator Peters. “By preventing this vital anti-terrorism program from expiring, this bipartisan legislation will help protect our national security and ensure the Department of Homeland Security has the tools and resources it needs to prevent terrorists from weaponizing chemicals to attack the United States.”
“Over the past several years, I have worked so that this program is both authorized and funded at levels to ensure the safety of chemical facilities across this country. By coming together in a bipartisan way, we are demonstrating the importance of our nation’s efforts to support a regulatory framework that strengthens our ability to prevent these facilities from being vulnerable to terrorists,” said Senator Capito.
“Protecting our nation from terrorist threats is vitally important, and that includes ensuring that our nation’s chemical facilities are secure,” said Senator Carper. “When I was chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, we worked hard to pass this bipartisan legislation to provide the Department of Homeland Security with the essential resources they need to safeguard our nation’s chemical facilities from security threats. I’m proud that we are working to reauthorize the CFATS program by introducing this bipartisan legislation today.”
“The types of chemicals protected by the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program are the same chemicals used in the OKC domestic terrorist bombing in 1995,” said Senator Lankford. “We have to make sure these dangerous chemicals don’t fall into the wrong hands or get exploited by terrorists. We must maintain these critical protections for our national security, and I am glad to join Senator Peters to once again reauthorize this important program.”
The CFATS program, which is managed by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), identifies and regulates chemical facilities that are vulnerable to terrorist exploitation. Facilities that are regulated by CFATS must report what chemicals they store to CISA and, if deemed high-risk, the facility then develops a plan to address three main security issues: release, theft or diversion, and sabotage. As of May 2023, CFATS covers approximately 3,200 facilities. The senators’ Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act would extend this vital anti-terrorism program for five years.