Chemical Industry Warns of Risks as Congress Lets Rule Lapse (1)

  • Facility security rule aimed at preventing terrorist attacks
  • Senate failed to extend authorization before deadline

(Updates with detail on cancelation of chemical inspections starting in the 7th paragraph.)

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Chemical industry officials and lawmakers are warning of security risks from a lapse of federal anti-terrorism standards after senators failed to strike a deal before leaving town for more than a month.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards expired at the end of Thursday. The House passed legislation (H.R. 4470) to renew the program, but a lone holdout—Republican Rand Paul (Ky.)—blocked fast-tracked consideration in Senate. Lawmakers are heading out for their August recess without a deal.

The chemical security program, run by DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, requires high-risk sites to take steps to ensure terrorists or other bad actors can’t weaponize dangerous chemicals.

Chemical Security Rules Near Lapse as Republican Blocks Renewal

“There are tools that will not be available starting tomorrow,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said on Thursday. Peters led bipartisan legislation to extend the standards.

The most immediate impact on chemical facilities will be an inability to use a federal terrorist watch list to vet employees and contractors at sites with dangerous chemicals, American Chemistry Council spokesperson Scott Jensen said.

Photographer: Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
The Olin chemical plant is seen in McIntosh, Ala., in 2021.

“This is an anti-terrorism program,” Jensen, whose group supports extending the standards, said in an interview. “This is certainly not the type of program that you want to see expire or go away.”

Upcoming inspections have been canceled, and CISA’s chemical inspectors were notified Friday that they can’t process reports or address CFATS-related emails, said Jesse LeGros Jr., vice president of the union that represents inspectors.

The roughly 100 inspectors are still on the job, but they’re focused on a separate, voluntary program for now, LeGros said. The Houston-based inspector said he’s not sure they’ll all keep their jobs if Congress doesn’t reauthorize the standards within a few months.

CISA updated its website Friday to notify facilities of the lapse and encourage them to maintain security measures anyway. CISA spokesperson Avery Mulligan stressed the importance of the standards in a statement Thursday, saying the reauthorization is needed “to protect over 3,000 chemical facilities from terrorist threats.”

Peters and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who cosponsored the bill, said they were still trying to strike a deal with Paul’s office Thursday. The Kentucky senator said he wouldn’t agree to a deal before the deadline, and said “we’ll see” about future opportunities to authorize the program.

‘Nobody Will Notice’

House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) appeared caught off guard by Paul’s move, saying “that’s not what we discussed.”

Green added that he had requested a Government Accountability Office study on the potential impacts of ending CFATS. “I guess we’ll find out this way,” he said.

Paul maintained “nobody will notice” when the standards lapse.

“People have had 20 years to harden their facilities,” he said in a brief interview. “You think they’re going to run out and tear down their fence with the razor wire on the top? Nothing’s going to change.”

Paul also argued in a floor speech this week that nationwide regulations favor big companies, while serving as a barrier for smaller businesses to enter the marketplace.

Several industry groups that represent large and small companies, including the American Chemistry Council and the National Association of Chemical Distributors, have pushed to extend the standards.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, called it “reprehensible” that the Senate didn’t pass an extension of the chemical security standards, which the House passed almost unanimously. But he cast blame on committee Republicans, too, faulting them for focusing on border security at the expense of other matters and waiting too long to work on the chemical legislation.

“Make no mistake, our Committee leadership’s prioritization of the extreme MAGA agenda over all else put us here,” Thompson said in a statement. “Now, this program is thrust into uncertainty and cannot operate until September, at the earliest.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged the chemical security program is due for some updates. Green said he was setting up a task force to work on future legislation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michaela Ross at; Anna Yukhananov at

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