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So long, CFATS (for now)

Senator Rand Paul

Paul in April. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Congress has allowed a chemical terrorism safety program to expire, leaving companies temporarily without federal resources to protect facilities.

Why it matters: The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program enjoys bipartisan support, and industry is worried the lapse could mean risks for chemical facilities.

Driving the news: Sen. Rand Paul blocked quick passage of a two-year CFATS reauthorization bill before the Senate left town last week.

  • The House had previously passed the legislation 409-1.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency currently says on its website that it can't enforce CFATS and will "follow up with facilities in the future" if the program is reauthorized.
  • CISA has been in touch with chemical companies to walk them through next steps, said American Chemistry Council spokesman Scott Jensen.
  • "It's still sort of an ongoing process to fully understand what the impact is of CFATS expiring, because this has never happened before," Jensen said.

Zoom in: The program requires security plans for high-risk chemical facilities and helps companies vet personnel who get access to them.

  • During the lapse, "our guys don't have access to things like the Personnel Surety Program," which screens for potential terrorism ties, said Eric Byer, CEO of the National Association of Chemical Distributors.
  • "That's not something we can do from a private-sector perspective," Byer told Axios.

The other side: Paul argued that "every company has a self-incentive to protect hazardous chemicals."

  • Paul said he would let the reauthorization pass if he got a bill added as an amendment to prevent duplicative federal programs.

What's next: Given the overwhelming support, Congress will likely get a reauthorization done come September.

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