|Rogers Statement at CFATS Markup|
WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), House Homeland Security Committee ranking member, today delivered a statement at a Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) markup.
CFATS is a critical program aimed at keeping dangerous chemicals out of the hands of terrorists. It is a successful program because it gives industry flexibility to secure their facilities, based on each facility’s unique risk and attributes. It is crucial that we do not let the program expire next year.
I want to thank the Chairman and his staff for working with us in a bipartisan manner on this bill. Unfortunately, despite the good work of staff on both sides, we could not come to an agreement in time for today’s mark up.
The rush to markup today, before we have a bipartisan agreement in place, is unfortunate.
Before CFATS can move to the House Floor for a vote, it must first make its way through another committee. Last week was the first time that both sides had an opportunity to sit down with the Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss CFATS.
In that meeting, several issues were raised that have yet to be resolved. Until there is a bipartisan agreement with Energy and Commerce, there is no chance this bill will receive the bipartisan support it needs on the House floor to advance to the Senate.
And we need a strong bipartisan vote for this bill because our Senate counterparts have expressed their opposition to the Chairman’s efforts.
Beyond the jurisdictional issues, this bill would make several changes to policy that have me very concerned.
First, the bill lowers the threshold for the risk assessment process DHS uses to help determine which facilities need to be regulated. Instead of considering the potential for loss of human life, the bill would require DHS to consider any consequence of an attack. That could mean the department must waste time modeling the effect of a terrorist attack on butterfly migration or casino revenues.
This change moves the CFATs program away from its nexus to terrorism. That’s bad for this committee’s jurisdiction over the program. And, frankly, it’s bad for homeland security.
Second, the bill enlarges a whistleblower protection program in an agency that does not have the capacity or skills to administer such a program. It also authorizes employees to sue employers for certain violations of the Act.
According to DHS, since it first started documenting whistleblower complaints in 2014, it has received a total of less than 10. In each of those complaints, there have been no reports of retaliation taken against the employee. This provision appears to be a solution in search of a problem.
Finally, the bill mandates union consultation and creates a chemical security advisory committee populated with environmentalists and community activists that have little, if any, understanding of the complexities of chemical security.
For these reasons, many stakeholders that supported past CFATs reauthorizations cannot support the bill today.
However, I do believe that with some more time and effort, we could easily come to a bipartisan agreement that includes our counterparts on Energy and Commerce. I look forward to continuing to work with the Chairman on this bill with the goal of bringing a strong bipartisan product to the House floor.