House Extends CFATS through FY 2012

On June 2nd, by a vote of 233-188, the House of Representatives voted to extend the current Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Standards (CFATS) program through the end of FY 2012 (September 30, 2012).  The provision is contained in HR 2017, the Homeland Security appropriations bill for FY 12.

Whether and/or how this action affects related legislative proposals remains unclear.  Two bills have been introduced in the House this session to extend the CFATS program for the chemical industry, HR 908 and HR 901, from the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Homeland Security, respectively.  Some members of the House have been interested in amending those bills to include oversight of the water sector and to introduce the concept of inherently safer technologies as a regulatory requirement.

Two bills have also been introduced on the Senate side.  The Senate Homeland Security Committee is considering a bill (S. 473) that solely extends the CFATS program and does not include the water sector.  Alternatively, the water sector is directly included in a second Senate bill, S.711, which comes from the Environment and Public Works Committee and is virtually identical to bills proposed last year that greatly expanded water system requirements and state primacy agency oversight responsibilities.

At the moment, the water sector remains exempt from CFATS.  Presuming that the Senate passes an appropriations bill that comports with HR 2017, the immediate pressure to reauthorize the CFATS program before the October 2011 sunset is removed.  However, given the divergent perspectives in the Senate and House, depending on majority party, not to mention committee jurisdiction issues, approaches to fill the administration’s assertion of a “gap” in water security remain uncertain legislatively.