Chemical terrorism scramble
Lawmakers are racing to stop a post-9/11 anti-terrorism and safety law from lapsing at month's end.
Why it matters: The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program — a rare regulatory effort with enthusiastic industry backing — requires companies to have plans to prepare for attacks against chemicals facilities with a high risk to the public.
- It was first created as an experimental program with a temporary authorization, meaning it requires extensions.
Driving the news: Leaders in the House and Senate Homeland Security committees are trying to hastily pass a clean extension of CFATS, which expires July 27.
- The House HomeSec committee earlier today advanced a two-year extension of the program.
- Senate HomeSec chair Gary Peters released his own bipartisan five-year extension in June, and told Axios today he's examining the Rule 14 process enabling bills to be placed directly on the Senate calendar.
- "Chairman Peters thinks a longer extension is better to ensure certainty for the companies that participate [in] this critical program so we can continue to protect our national security for years to come," a Peters aide said.
- This comes after a July 5 plea for a "long-term, multi-year, clean reauthorization" from major trade associations, including chemicals and resource industry organizations.
Threat level: House Chair Mark Green said during the markup that the only way he can avoid the program's lapse is to move a clean extension because "there are some people in the Senate and the House who want the program to go away completely."
- "They think it's excessive and duplicative," said Green, who didn't name names.
This led some members to grumble about the need to improve the program and studies showing safety deficiencies.
- But their amendments got shot down after Green said he believed his measure was the only way to get a fix in time to avoid the program expiring.
- "We're really threading a needle here," he said.
What industry's saying: American Chemistry Council spokesperson Scott Jensen said failure to reauthorize the program in time "would disrupt" the interactions companies have with government on anti-terrorism measures, including information sharing and site reviews.
- Jensen said it'll be a "difficult task" to get it done in time.
What we're watching: the Energy and Commerce Committee's schedule. It's the other House panel with jurisdiction over chemicals.
- A Republican E&C aide said: "We're currently reviewing the options for determining the best path forward for renewing CFATS' statutory authority."
- We'll also be watching to see if the GOP infighting that clouds other must-pass bills will hit CFATS at crunch time.