Monday, October 26, 2009
Ammonium Nitrate Regulations
A recent article on the ABCNews.go.com web site reported on an unusual bipartisan security concern being voiced by the House Homeland Security Committee. Both Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member King were complaining about the lack of progress being made on establishing regulations to control the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate, a prime raw material for historically significant improvised explosive devices. Congress added special provisions to the DHS FY 2008 appropriations bill authorizing the Secretary to develop regulations controlling the sale and transfer of this very common IED precursor chemical. As I noted almost two years ago §563 required DHS to publish a final rule on ammonium nitrate by 12-26-08, but DHS was only able get the comment period of their Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) done by that date. In another blog late last year I laid out a wide variety of other requirements that had gotten in the way of the ability of DHS to take timely action on the preparation of that ANPRM. Since that time, the ISCD has had to continue working on the ammonium nitrate regulations while they were expending a great deal of time producing the final version of the Risk Based Performance Standards Guidance document, two SVA manuals and the SVA CSAT tool. All the while they were also executing a number of public outreach programs to explain the CFATS regulations and the Site Security Plan implementation schedule while dealing with numerous requests for compliance assistance visits. I did a series of blogs late last year (11-07-08, 12-05-08, 12-12-08, 12-19-08, 12-26-08, 01-09-09, and 01-30-09) on the comments received about the ANPRM. The comments expressed the expected concerns about regulation stifling the legitimate use of ammonium nitrate, but they also raised a number of important issues that would need to be addressed in the eventual regulations. As I pointed out on a number of occasions, DHS would have its work cut out for it dealing with the issues that Congress never envisioned when they required the regulations to be developed. DHS has been working closely with the potentially regulated community to insure that while the regulations restrict the access of potential terrorists to this potent IED precursor, it does not unduly restrict the legitimate end users of ammonium nitrate fertilizers, commercial explosives and other minor uses. Since DHS hopes to have the final regulations in place before the next fertilizer application season next spring, it is important to get the bugs worked out in advance. According to the ABC web article, DHS has essentially completed the draft of the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), the next stage in the regulatory development process. As soon as the internal review is completed by the Obama Administration, the NPRM will be published in the Federal Register. Obviously, I will report on that as soon as I see it.