Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chemical Safety and Security EO – First Deadline Passed

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” (EO 13650). The other posts in the series are:

It has been a while since I’ve written on this EO and I thought that since the first deadline set by the President has passed it might be appropriate to look at where things stand.

45 Day Deadline

The first deadline set in the EO was a 45-day deadline that expired on September 21st. As I noted in the ‘Clock Starts Clicking’ post this deadline was for the establishment of a pilot program that I described this way:

The Working Group shall deploy 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.

While this requirement was technically met before the EO was signed I had really hoped for a press release from the Working Group on the progress on the pilot program. There has been nothing that I have seen publicly about this pilot program. I know that it exists and I know that at least initial organizational meetings have taken place, but this initial attempt at interagency cooperation on chemical safety issues is being oddly kept quiet.

Next Deadline

The next deadline set in the EO, the 90-day deadline, will arrive on November 5th. There is a rather extensive set of requirements that the President set for achieving by that date; I’ll refer readers back to the ‘Clock Starts Clicking’ post for the whole list. I understand that the Working Group, its various sub-groups and the Departments involved are working on these projects and a lot of this must take place out of the public view.

A few, however, should certainly involve some serious public discussion. They include:

The Working Group shall develop options for improved chemical facility safety and security that identifies improvements to existing risk management practices through agency programs, private sector initiatives, Government guidance, outreach, standards, and regulations

The Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Agriculture shall develop a list of potential regulatory and legislative proposals to improve the safe and secure storage, handling, and sale of ammonium nitrate and identify ways in which ammonium nitrate safety and security can be enhanced under existing authorities.

The Administrator of EPA and the Secretary of Labor shall review the chemical hazards covered by the Risk Management Program (RMP) and the Process Safety Management Standard (PSM) and determine if the RMP or PSM can and should be expanded to address additional regulated substances and types of hazards.

The EPA and the Department of Labor shall develop a plan, including a timeline and resource requirements, to expand, implement, and enforce the RMP and PSM in a manner that addresses the additional regulated substances and types of hazards.

The Secretary of Homeland Security shall identify a list of chemicals, including poisons and reactive substances, that should be considered for addition to the CFATS Chemicals of Interest list.

The Secretary of Labor shall identify any changes that need to be made in the retail and commercial grade exemptions in the PSM Standard.

I would have expected to see at least a couple of requests for information published in the Federal Register by now on these topics by now. With the deadline approaching it is probably too late for a formal public comment period to initiated and still have time for the agencies to read, review and incorporate the information in their response to the President. And that is too bad as there are certainly a wide variety of ideas available to look at for ways of addressing these issues.

I think it would be beneficial for the Working Group to look at the public participation that has been the hallmark of the response to the President’s cybersecurity EO. That would be a very good working model for continued work on this complex and important issue.

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