Early this week DHS released information on their proposed 2009 budget. According to a Fact Sheet on the DHS web site, “President Bush’s fiscal year 2009 budget request for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) represents $50.5 billion in funding, which is an increase of 6.8 percent over the 2008 fiscal year level”. The expenditures are to go into three broad categories; Protection against Dangerous People, Protection against Dangerous Goods, and Protecting Critical Infrastructure.
The budget includes an “increase of $13 million for National Protection and Programs Directorate’s (NPPD) chemical security compliance project.” According to Secretary Chertoff, the new money for the Chemical Security Compliance Project will be used to “staff our regulatory program, collect and analyze vulnerability information, review security plans for the most hazardous plants, support and manage inspections, and enforce compliance of the new standards.”
An article on GovExec.com points out that a portion of the IT money in the budget is portioned out to specific areas in the Department. DHS has requested that $322.3 million of the IT money go to the NPPD, an increase of 24.2%. Some of this money would go to the Chemical Security Compliance Project.
An interesting fact came out in Secretary Chertoff’s press conference that wasn’t directly related to the budget. In describing some of the resistance that the Department had had to overcome to complete its missions he mentioned that the propane industry had sued the Department to stop enforcement of its 60,000 pound STQ for propane. The unsuccessful lawsuit had not made the national news.
The propane industry had conducted a successful political campaign to delay implementation of the CFATS regulations and get special treatment under those revised regulations. DHS had drastically increased the STQ from 10,000 pounds used for other flammable release COI and even eliminated tanks of 10,000 pounds or smaller from the calculation to determine if a facility had an STQ amount on hand.
It is ironic that the news of this law suit came out just days after the Chemical Safety Board issued an update on its investigation of the Little General Store propane fire that killed four people and injured another six at a rural convenience store. While this was an accident and not a terrorist attack, it does demonstrate how dangerous even relatively small tanks of propane, tanks exempted under the revised CFATS regulation, actually are.