Friday, March 14, 2014

CFATS Knowledge Center Update – 03-14-14

This morning the folks at DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) updated their CFATS Knowledge Center web site. As reported in the ‘Latest News’ section of the landing page they have added two new frequently asked questions (FAQ) with responses. Both questions deal with ammonium nitrate and Top Screen submissions. Given the fact that a number of newly identified ammonium nitrate facilities are submitting Top Screens, additional questions seeking clarification are to be expected. In fact I would not be surprised to see additional questions in the coming weeks.

FAQ 1733

The first new FAQ asks:

If a facility that has already filed a Top-Screen possesses solid ammonium nitrate [nitrogen concentration of 23% or greater] in bulk and transfers some of this bulk ammonium nitrate into man-portable bags, should the bagged ammonium nitrate be reported in a revised Top-Screen as "Portable"?

The short answer is yes. The DHS response to the FAQ does not explain why. First this grade (fertilizer grade) of ammonium nitrate is a theft/diversion chemical of interest (COI). If properly stored in bulk, West Fertilizer not withstanding; it is not considered to be of danger to blow up on site. DHS is concerned that it might be taken off-site and turned into ANFO, an ammonium-nitrate fuel-oil blend that is an excellent explosive.

Fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate in bulk storage is harder to steal than is AN in transportation containers (trailers for instance) which are harder to steal than AN in man-portable containers. While ISCD will not tell us exactly how they calculate the relative risk of terrorist attack on a facility, it is obvious that the same amount of fertilizer grade AN presents more of a theft risk in man-portable containers than in transportation containers; which are higher risk than bulk storage.

FAQ 1734

The second new FAQ asks a very similar question:

Under the Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Standards (CFATS), should a regulated facility submit a revised Top-Screen if it changes either the type (i.e., bulk verses portable packages/containers) or the amount of Ammonium Nitrate (AN) that it possesses?

Again, the short answer is yes. This time the ISCD response addresses the situation from the aspect of a facility making a "material modification to its operations or site". Section 27.210(d) addresses the requirement for a facility that has already submitted a Top Screen to submit a new Top Screen when they make material modifications to its operations or site. When ISCD receives this new Top Screen it will re-do it’s risk assessment for the facility and may require the facility to prepare a new Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) and/or a new Site Security Plan (SSP).

The ISCD response also notes that §27.205(b) allows a facility to request a redetermination of their status as ‘presenting a high level of security risk’ any time that they make a material change to their operations. That request can also include a request for a face-to-face meeting to discuss that change.

I’m not sure this section would really apply here, because this provision was included when facilities made a material change that they thought would reduce their risk level. Since the facility would be increasing its risk by putting AN into man portable containers there is no chance that ISCD would reduce their estimate of the risk.

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