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Security plans idle for chemical plants
Errors not reported for years
Mr. Beers added that CFATS already had improved the security of the nation’s chemical industry sector.
About 1,600 facilities have been removed from the at-risk list because they have stopped using chemicals that make them potential terrorist targets, he said. Another 700 plants reduced the quantity of such chemicals to lower their risk levels.
The CFATS program uses four categories to rate high-risk plants. The highest-risk plants are generally major facilities using toxic chemicals in big urban areas, where the potential casualty count from a successful terrorist attack would be highest.
But in May 2010, CFATS staffers discovered an error in the computing program used to assess the risk levels, based on the electronic submissions from plant managers. About 250 facilities had been placed in the wrong category.
At the time, a Homeland Security official made a “conscious decision” not to report the problem to upper management, according to a memo prepared by the staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“I want it wrapped up soon,” he said.
Todd M. Keil, the assistant secretary who in June first notified Mr. Beers of the problem in categorizingthe plants, abruptly resigned Feb. 3, the same day as the hearing.
A management review last fall revealed the problems with hiring and spending controls. The review included a plan for fixing the program, according to congressional testimony.
Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama Republican, has called on the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, to look into the program. Officials at the office said they were working with Mr. Aderholt’s staff on the exact scope and nature of their inquiries.
Mr. Aderholt, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, announced this week that he would hold a closed hearing next month to take classified testimony from Mr. Beers about the program.
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