Tuesday, January 1, 2013

HR 6711 Introduced – CFATS Tiering

In the closing days of the 112th Congress Rep. Richardson (D,CA) introduced HR 6711, the Keeping our Communities Safe by Strengthening Safety Standards for Chemical Facilities Act. This is a very short, and apparently non-controversial bill that would make a brief amendment to the §550 (PL 109–295) authorization for the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program.

The Language

The bill would add a single sentence ‘provided further’ to §550(a):

“That in assigning a chemical facility to a risk tier pursuant to this section, the Secretary shall consider the proximity of the facility to population centers, schools, and other facilities at risk of creating a secondary explosion.”

Now DHS will not tell us, for security reasons, exactly what it takes into consideration when it designates a facility a high-risk chemical facility and assigns it to a tier level. It would seem obvious though that it would include “proximity of the facility to population centers, [and] schools”. What may not currently be addressed by DHS is the proximity of “other facilities at risk of creating a secondary explosion”.

The Problem

The problem that ISCD could have with this is the difficulty of identifying facilities with a ‘risk of creating a secondary explosion’. If adjacent (or nearby) facilities are part of the CFATS program this would not be an issue; an ISCD database check could identify the potential problem. If the adjacent facility did not have DHS chemicals of interest (COI) on hand (above the screening threshold quantity - STQ) then the facility might not be in DHS databases and certainly not in the facility database at ISCD.

There is also the problem of defining ‘risk of creating a secondary explosion’. Direct flame impingement on a non-flammable gas cylinder can cause a catastrophic failure of the cylinder that news folks are wont to call an ‘explosion’; would that be covered? Is a single barbeque propane cylinder at a nearby house a ‘risk for creating a secondary explosion’; it will certainly explode in a fire? How about a box of ammunition on a shelf in an adjacent store; the shells will certainly explode in a fire?

Moving Forward

With only two possible days (today and tomorrow) left in the 112th Congress it is extremely unlikely that this bill will see any floor action (it is not currently on today’s list for floor consideration). If it had appeared earlier it might have actually been able to pass.

I suppose that we are likely to see Ms. Richardson introduce this bill again in the 113th Congress, probably later this month. Depending on what other CFATS bills get introduced this could actually make it into law.

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