In a recent op-ed, Christine Todd Whitman, the former head of the EPA, proposed greater regulation of the U.S. chemical sector because the current regulations aren’t working. Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Standards (CFATS) were regulations set up in 2007 to help better defend facilities that process, manage or store high-risk chemicals. While this program is lauded as well written and well-intended, CFATS have become complicated and burdensome.
Gov. Whitman is right on one thing: the current system isn’t working, but it is not because of a lack of regulation. Chemical companies have tried – they made security changes, submitted security plans, and have undergone several inspections, but DHS isn’t keeping up. News reports in the last year have slammed DHS’ management of CFATS, which has yet to complete a final compliance inspection and is slow to approve companies’ security plans. Personnel issues, a lack of transparency, changing rules, and other problems typical in bureaucracies have severely hampered DHS’s effectiveness.
The solution to this problem is not more regulation. It’s giving the private sector more room for innovation while scaling back already excessive and failing regulation.