Chemical Security Program Comes Under Scrutiny

The Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards Program (CFATS) was the subject of another oversight hearing by the Environment and Economy Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Sept. 11. 

Problems with the program came to light at end of last year when an internal memorandum detailing an array of management failures and implementation flaws was leaked to the press. This hearing was called to obtain a progress report on the status of the CFATS program.

Although water agencies are not covered by the CFATS program, there is regularly an effort in Congress to move drinking water and wastewater security into the CFATS program. At this hearing members of Congress were focused on the program's flaws, and there was little discussion of water security issues. 

However, Paul Orum, testifying on behalf of the Blue Green Chemical Security Coalition and the Center for American Progress, once again made the case for DHS oversight of water facilities. Orum was one of the witnesses on the second panel along with Anna Fendley of the United Steelworkers; Mathew Leary, corporate EHS&S manager, Pilot Chemical Company; Timothy Scott, chemical security officer, Dow Chemical Company.

Orum characterized drinking water and wastewater facilities' exemption from the CFATS program as a “fundamental deficiency” and encouraged committee members to close this “security gap”. Additionally Orum made the case for incorporating the concept of “avoidable chemical hazards” or “inherently safer technology” into the CFATS program. This concept encourages facilities to switch from a “hazardous” chemical to a safer one. In previous testimony Orum has cited water facilities' use of chlorine gas as an “avoidable chemical hazard.”

View the webcast of the hearing and read the witness testimony here.