A new plan to screen people with access to high-risk chemical plants for possible terrorist ties will allow industry to make use of credentialing programs in which they already participate, U.S. Homeland Security Department (DHS) officials said.
The new plan will allow chemical companies to use the existing Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program to satisfy a DHS requirement those with access to select facilities undergo screening for links to terrorist groups, the officials said. The Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard currently use the program to screen workers at port facilities and other sensitive areas.
The department pulled its previous screening proposal in July. The scrapped plan had faced strong opposition from powerful industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Chemistry Council and the American Petroleum Institute, which argued it would have duplicated existing security screening programs.
Obtaining a TWIC credential requires people to “provide biographic and biometric information such as fingerprints, sit for a digital photograph and successfully pass a security threat assessment conducted by” the Transportation Security Administration, according to the agency website.
The new plan will go to the White House for approval and public comment by October, Homeland Security Undersecretary Rand Beers told the House Energy and Commerce environment and economy subcommittee last week.
The screening requirement is a component of the DHS Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Standards initiative, which aims to prevent the intentional release of industrial chemicals into the environment. The effort has been under fire from House Republicans since late last year when a leaked DHS memo detailed a host of problems with implementation including that the department had failed to complete site inspections and approve facility security plans.
In testimony to the committee, Beers said the department as of this month has completed 59 of the 95 action items it had identified as necessary to address the problems detailed in the memo.