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In The Loop
Posted at 06:13 PM ET, 02/16/2012

Chemical plants: Still unsafe?


A chemical plant burns in October near Waxahachie, Tex. (LM Otero - AP)
The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, designed to enhance security against terrorist attack, began about five years ago. The goal was straightforward — figure out which facilities were the most vulnerable and dangerous and then monitor industry efforts to secure those sites.

Since then, CFATS (that’s “Cee-FATS”) has received some 4,200 site security plans from businesses — who’ve spent tons of their own money on plans and improvements — to obtain a government seal of approval for their efforts.

So far, some $480 million later, not one has been approved. Zero. And heads may roll.

A blistering internal investigation in November, recently released to a House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, found a program beset with untrained and unqualified staff, cronyism, “an environment for fraud, waste and abuse,” use of government travel cards for equipment and “unauthorized expenses” and talked of a “catastrophic failure” and a leadership that didn’t want to hear bad news.

At a hearing this month, a most unhappy group of subcommittee members grilled Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Rand Beers about the report.

And Loop Fans know that when folks like Republicans Joe Barton (Tex.) and John Shimkus (Ill.) and Democrats Gene Green (Tex.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) are all unhappy, something is very, very wrong at CFATS — and, Waxman noted, maybe with the way Congress has been overseeing it.

“You have totally mismanaged this program,” Barton told Beers. “If you can’t do it, resign.”

The November report by division Director Penny Anderson, obtained by Fox News in December, noted that inspectors — many of them recruited from law enforcement — don’t have law enforcement authority in their new jobs but “some still actively seek the right to carry a firearm.” (A shoot-out in a chemical facility? )

Some of the 200 CFATS employees demand to be called “commander,” to wear their inspection uniforms in the office and also squabbled for months over use of official cars for home to office transport..

The opening line of the no-holds-barred report says it was done “as supported by assistant secretary [Todd] Keil.” Keil, as it turns out, oddly enough, was recently forced out of his job.

In response to calls for his resignation, Beers said: “If I believe I can’t do the job, then I will walk away from it ... ”

May not be his call.

By  |  06:13 PM ET, 02/16/2012

Tags:  Chemical plants, terrorism, terrorist attacks, Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, CFATS, John Shimkus, Gene Green, Henry Waxman, Joe Barton, Department of Homeland Security, DHS, Rand Beers, House Energy and Commerce

 
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