Saturday, August 3, 2013

Chemical Safety and Security EO – Improving Coordination

This is part of a continuing series of blog posts discussing President Obama’s recently signed executive order on “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security”. The initial post in the series was:

Existing Programs

There are a number of chemical safety and security programs already in place at the federal level. The White House press release that accompanied the initial publication of the Executive Order outlines some of those programs and I am including some that the White House ignored/missed. The federal chemical safety and security programs include:

• EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP);
• OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard;
• DHS/NPPD’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program;
• DHS/NPPD’s Ammonium Nitrate Security Program (ANSP), under development;
• DHS/CG’s Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) program;
• DOJ/ATF’s Federal explosives regulations;
• DOC’s Chemical weapons convention program;
• DOT’s HAZMAT rail shipping security requirements; and
• DOT’s HAZMAT truck shipping security requirements.

Additionally, there are a couple of programs that deal with chemical security issues as part of their larger security program (and are specifically exempted from the CFATS program).

• EPA’s Water treatment facility security program;
• EPA’s Waste water treatment facility security program;
• DOE’s Nuclear weapons security programs;
• NRC’s Nuclear power plant security program;
• DOD’s Facility security programs;

All of these programs operate completely independently of one another, with little or no communications between program administrators. Many chemical facilities fall under multiple programs that require completely separate record keeping and reporting requirements.

On the other side of the equation, there is little if any information sharing between the different programs. Not only is there no mechanism for coordinating efforts, but even if there were the information collection and retention systems are not designed to share information between programs. It is not even clear that the different organizations have the capability to search the information data bases of the other organizations.

This is further complicated by the fact that OSHA and the EPA typically administer many of their programs through administrators of state programs. Those programs will share specific information with the associated federal program, but typically no more than is absolutely necessary.

Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group

Section 2 of the Executive Order establishes the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group, referred to throughout the EO as the Working Group. Three agencies will co-chair the Working Group; the Department of Homeland Security, The Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency. The head of each of the agencies (or their designated representative at the Assistant Secretary level) will act as the co-chairs.

Representatives from a similar level at the following agencies will fill out the membership of the Working Group.

• The Department of Justice;
• The Department of Agriculture; and
• The Department of Transportation.

To aid them in their efforts, the Working Group will consult with {§2(b)}:

• The Council on Environmental Quality;
• The National Security Staff;
• The Domestic Policy Council;
• The Office of Science and Technology Policy;
• The Office of Management and Budget (OMB);
• The White House Office of Cabinet Affairs; and
• Such other agencies and offices as the President may designate.

The Working Group will report to the President through the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

Improving Coordination

One of the main reasons for the establishment of the Working Group is to improve the coordination of the various chemical safety and security programs at the federal level. Section 4 of the EO outlines three specific actions the Working Group is supposed to undertake to improve that coordination. They include:

• Deploying a pilot program, involving the EPA, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and any other appropriate agency, to validate best practices and to test innovative methods for Federal interagency collaboration regarding chemical facility safety and security within 45 days {§4(a)}.

• Creating comprehensive and integrated standard operating procedures for a unified Federal approach for identifying and responding to risks in chemical facilities (including during pre-inspection, inspection execution, post-inspection, and post-accident investigation activities), incident reporting and response procedures, enforcement, and collection, storage, and use of facility information within 270 days {§4(b)}.

• Determining what, if any, changes are required to existing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and processes between EPA and CSB, ATF and CSB, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and CSB for timely and full disclosure of information within 90 days {§4(c)}.

Fortunately, the activity with the shortest time frame was actually begun last Tuesday. An interagency working group put together a pilot program called the ‘Effective Chemical Risk Management Project, Federal Region 2’ (ECRM2). The team held their first meeting last Tuesday. It consisted of representatives from:

• EPA Region 2 – Co-Chair
• USCG District 1 – Co-Chair
• DHS (OIP) Region 2
• TSA Region 2
• ATF Region 2
• OSHA Region 1
• DOT (PHMSA) Region 2
• NJDEP (NJ Dept of Environmental Protection)
• NYS DEC (NY Dept of Environmental Conservation)
• NYC OEM (NYC Office of Emergency Management)

It will take longer than 45 days to see significant action from this group, but it is certainly a first start. Besides the EO only calls for the group to be stood up in 45 days and that has effectively been done. It would be interesting to see if the other two deadlines are also met.


Phil said...

Perhaps I'm overlooking it, but I fail to see a mention of the independent federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, which is patterned after the NTSB. Is that an intentional oversight?

Patrick Coyle said...

Phil: I did not include the CSB since it is not a regulatory program. Likewise NTSB has chemical investigatory responsiblity for accidents involving chemical transportation.
Both organizations are very important to the chemical industry but are not regulatory in nature.
CSB is mentioned in the EO so I'll have more on it later.

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