Thursday, November 20, 2008

New IST Report from Center for American Progress

The Homeland Security Digital Library (note: name corrected 11-21-08, 0951) blog late yesterday afternoon noted that the Center for American Progress had released their latest report on chemical facility security, Chemistry 101. As in previous reports they note that a number of facilities in this country use hazardous chemicals that could be replaced by less hazardous chemicals. In particular they identify “the nation’s 101 most dangerous chemical facilities” and claim that most could “convert to safer and more secure chemicals or processes already being used by similar facilities”.

I have not had a chance to read the complete report so I cannot comment on the details of the claims, but the reports Executive Summary does provide some compelling arguments. I particularly like the fact that they specifically do not claim that all of the facilities could convert to inherently safer technology (IST).  

Comprehensive Chemical Security Program 

The report does call for Congress to enact a comprehensive chemical security program “rooted in identifying, developing, and leveraging the use of safer and more secure tech­nologies”. They identify eight areas that this program should address:
"Require chemical facilities to assess and use feasible alternatives that reduce the poten­tial harm of a terrorist attack
"Create financial incentives for facilities to convert by requiring liability insurance and targeting conversion funding to publicly owned facilities and first-adopters of innova­tive technologies
"Invest in collaborative research to identify safer, more secure alternatives
"Utilize the experience and knowledge of facility employees in security assessments, plans, and inspections
"Build the oversight capacity of government agencies and require administrative trans­parency to hold those agencies accountable
"Ensure equal enforcement of standards without special treatment for facilities in volun­tary industry security programs
"Include all relevant industries, in particular currently exempted water utilities
"Respect the right of states to set more protective standards if federal actions won’t pro­tect communities"
This list is more extensive than the one proposed by a number of special interest groups earlier this year (see: “Push for New Chemical Facility Security Law”). The list does not appear to be a radical new agenda, but it does go beyond what was included in the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008 (HR 5577) that died quietly in the current 110th Congress.

This report includes some ideas that will certainly meet with resistance from the chemical industry. We already know that the industry does not like mandatory IST. Liability insurance requirements and increased state regulations will not be popular either. They are also unlikely to support ‘administrative transparency’ that might make public the security measures, or lack thereof, at their facilities. This report is going to carry some weight in the new Obama administration. At least one commenter has noted that the Center for American Progress was founded by “John Podesta, who is co-chairman of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team”. What remains to be seen is the level of importance that the new President attaches to this type legislation.

Public Relations Campaign 

The Center for American Progress appears to be quietly pushing this agenda. This report is listed, but not featured, on their web site, but today at least four newspapers (The Daily Record, The Courier Post, The Deseret News, and The News Journal) carried news articles discussing the report and local facilities named in the report. The chemical industry should take note. I predict that this is part of the opening salvo of a push to by the new administration and a stronger Congress to enact stricter chemical security controls. I will also bet that this time next year, the industry will wish that it had backed HR 5577 in the current Congress. It would have been much easier to live with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Utilize the experience and knowledge of facility employees in security assessments, plans, and inspections."

I'm not very confident in this statement. Many of the employees of these facilities have limited knowledge and experience with regards to REAL security. While the various companies might hire Wackenhut or similar security guard companies for onsite "security," what is needed for some of these Tier 1 facilities are real response and security forces similar to Nuclear Power Plant facilities. I do agree that an employee should be observant and report potential threats, however most know little about actual security vulnerability assessments.

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