A United Steelworkers (USW) expert on workplace chemical security who
testified on Thursday before a U.S. House subcommittee on legislation to
extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) said that
those standards need to be improved.
Testifying before the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, James
Frederick, assistant director for USW Health, Safety and Environment, said
that “Workers are the best source to identify vulnerable hazards and often
have much more hands-on worksite experience to recommend solutions.
”To be fully effective, worker participation must be supported by strong and
effective whistleblower protection,” Frederick added.
USW President Leo Gerard supported Frederick’s testimony, which criticized
H.R. 908 to maintain CFATS without improvements. “It would jeopardize the
hundreds of thousands of USW members employed at chemical-related facilities
and residents who live in surrounding communities,” Gerard said. “We support
the more comprehensive bills introduced by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
to address the preventable hazards these plants pose.”
Those bills: the Secure Chemical Facilities Act and the Secure Water
Weaknesses in the current CFATS rule which an extension won’t address
include the following, Frederick testified: the standard prohibits the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from requiring any specific security
measure; it fails to develop the use of smart security to eliminate risks;
and 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.
CFATS also fails to address risk shifting, Frederick testified, 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
said. The union represents 230 workers involved in a labor dispute at that
The USW industrial safety representative further testified that any
legislation on chemical security should achieve the following:
•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
•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’s testimony is available at: