Wednesday, June 16, 2010
BP and CFATS
There have been a number of Tweets (including two from greenpeaceusa) this evening pointing at a New York Times article that attempts to link the actions of BP and resumption of consideration of legislation to re-authorize the CFATS program. The Greenwire article makes a major point of the fact that BP opposed the early attempt in the Bush Administration to control chemical facility security via the EPA rather than Homeland Security. What this has to do with the current CFATS debate is left to the imagination. EPA and IST Claiming that some sort of EPA security regulation would have included inherently safer technology (IST) requirement is just too much of a stretch. EPA is responsible for a number of chemical process safety regulations and has never seriously considered mandating IST, at heart a process safety technique, in the requirements for any of their programs. Nor have I heard any of the current ‘IST as a security measure’ proponents mention requiring IST as an EPA or OSHA safety mandate. Public Response to Chemical Attack There is an interesting point made in the article that should be considered by industry supporters. It quotes a Bush era EPA official as saying (and I paraphrase) that given the outraged response in Congress and the public to the current BP performance, industry can only expect the same response (or worse) if they are victims of a successful terrorist attack that unleashes toxic chemicals in a city. There is a serious difference between an incident due to apparent malfeasance and a release due to a terrorist attack. Having said that, I’m afraid that this might easily be the type outcome we could expect to see if we have a serious major mass casualty incident at a high-risk chemical facility. You can see the forerunners of this response in the number of questions that were asked about why the 9/11 attacks were not prevented, placing blame on the government not the terrorists. Needless to say, if such an attack occurred while the reauthorization status of CFATS remained in limbo, then it would not take any time to see Congress pass a reauthorization bill that would make HR 2868 look like a chemical industry proposal. That the cost of that draconian legislation would end up shutting down a large number of chemical facilities would not matter. Knee-jerk reactions, by definition, by-pass the thought process both in the body and the body politic.