A United Steelworkers (USW) expert on workplace chemical security issues testifying yesterday before a U.S. House subcommittee said that existing measures for protecting chemical facilities from terrorist attacks are inadequate.

James S. Frederick, Assistant Director for USW Health, Safety and Environment, argued against a bill that would extend the ‘Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards’ (CFATS). Among the weakness Frederick identified in the current CFATS rule:
  • It prohibits the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from requiring a specific security measure
  • It fails to develop the use of smart security to eliminate risks
  • It explicitly exempts thousands of chemical and port facilities – including 2,400 water treatment facilities and more than 400 facilities on navigable waters such as oil refineries
Frederick also said CFATS fails to address the problem of risk shifting, such as when companies shift chemical hazards to unguarded locations like rail sidings. Frederick used an example of a uranium processing plant run by Honeywell Corp. in Metropolis, Ill., where the community has been put at risk with railcars of hydrofluoric acid being stored at off-site property. The USW represents 230 workers involved in a labor dispute at the plant.

Legislation on chemical security should achieve the following, according to Frederick:
  • Require facilities that pose the greatest risk to assess safer chemical processes and to conditionally require the use of safer chemical processes, where feasible and commercially available;
  • Provide resources to assist facilities to use safer and more secure processes;
  • Require worker involvement in the development of security plans, provide protections for whistleblowers, and limit background check abuses;
  • Preserve state authority to establish stronger security standards.
Frederick urged Congress to gather information on the issues from chemical workers, who he said are “the best source to identify vulnerable hazards.”

USW President Leo W. Gerard also criticized the effort to extend CFATS. “It would jeopardize the hundreds of thousands of US members employed at chemical-related facilities and residents who live in surrounding communities.”

The USW suppports the “Secure Chemical Facilities Act,” and the ‘Secure Water Facilities Act” introduced by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).