Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 113th Congress [August 2, 2013] [open pdf - 546KB]
"Recognizing the potential harm that a large, sudden release of hazardous chemicals poses to nearby people, state and federal governments have long regulated safety practices at chemical facilities. Historically, chemical facilities have engaged in security activities on a voluntary basis. Even before the terrorist attacks of 2001, congressional policymakers expressed concern over the security vulnerabilities of these facilities. After the 2001 attacks and the decision by several states to begin regulating security at chemical facilities, Congress again considered requiring federal security regulations to mitigate these risks. In 2006, the 109th Congress passed legislation providing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with statutory authority to regulate chemical facilities for security purposes. Subsequent Congresses have extended this authority, which currently expires on October 4, 2013. Advocacy groups, stakeholders, and policymakers have called for Congress to reauthorize this authority, though they disagree about the preferred approach. Congress may extend the existing authority, revise the existing authority to resolve potentially contentious issues, or allow this authority to lapse. The explosion on April 17, 2013, at the West Fertilizer Company fertilizer distribution facility in West, TX, has led to additional focus on DHS's ability to identify noncompliant facilities. The West Fertilizer Company had not reported to DHS under the CFATS [chemical facility anti-terrorism standards] program, though it appeared to have possessed more than threshold quantities of chemicals of interest. While DHS had engaged in previous activity to identify facilities that had not complied with CFATS reporting requirements, DHS did not identify the West Fertilizer Company. Congressional policymakers have questioned the sufficiency of DHS efforts to identify these noncompliant 'outlier' facilities. This report provides a brief overview of the existing statutory authority and implementing regulation. It describes several policy issues raised in previous debates regarding chemical facility security and identifies policy options for congressional consideration."
CRS Report for Congress, R42918