Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chemical Security makes the DHS Leadership Blog

Secretary Robert B. Stephan, the man at DHS with responsibility for CFATS {Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection}, penned the November 21st blog on the DHS Leadership Journal. While there is nothing materially new in this blog, Stephan does point out that this entry is; “one of many ways that DHS is reaching out to remind facility owners and operators of their responsibility to comply with the regulation and complete the Top-Screen."


DHS is going to have to be very proactive in getting information out to the 40,000+ chemical facilities that it estimates will be required to complete Top Screen entries into the CSAT before 1-22-08. Based on my experience there will be few people in the industry that will actually read 6 CFR part 27, much less the preambles to the two Final Rules that brought the regulation and Appendix A into being. Most facilities will not understand the requirements of the regulation until an inspector comes around to explain it to them.


The initial education effort will have to be two fold; letting the affected facilities know that there are actions they have to take, and then teach them how to complete those actions. The DHS web site actually has the second part covered pretty well; there are some pretty well written instructions about how to provide information into the CSAT.


The hardest part of completing the Top Screen will not be filling out that online document itself (DHS has done a pretty good job making that procedure relatively painless, much easier than IRS tax documents), but rather more people will have problems with the registration process to get into the Top Screen. The problem there is the complexity of the authorizer, preparer, submitter relationship that will confuse people. That plus the factthat the mail back of user names and passwords must be completed before the Top Screen can be started; I expect a large number of registrations to be submitted after January 1st.


In either case, if DHS can convince industry groups to communicate to their members the basic rules of who will have to file Top Screens, the word should get out to the affected facilities. Then if the facilities can be convinced to go to DHS web site and down load the PDF worksheets and instructions explaining how to complete the CSAT Registration and Top Screen, the process should go fairly smoothly.


It will be interesting to see next year how DHS goes about tracking down the facilities that do not complete the process. The easy ones to find will be those facilities that have filed EPA risk management plans; most of the toxic release and flammable release chemicals in Appendix A came from the RMP list. Not every facility that was required to file RMP documents will have to file a Top Screen, but a very large number of them will. There are probably other government lists that cover most of the chemicals on the COI, but tracking them all down will take a lot of foot work and most of the DHS chemical security people will be looking at SVA’s and SSP’s for the next year or so, not tracking down people who have not filed.


The other thing that normally helps the government enforcement efforts in programs like these, peer informers and whistle-blowers, will not function well in this effort. Because of legitimate requirements of Chemical Vulnerability Information (CVI) rules, outsiders will not be able to tell if any particular facility has completed a Top Screen or not. Even most people working in the facility will not know for sure if a Top Screen had been completed because of CVI rules.


We will have to wait and see how well DHS does on picking up those facilities that “forget” and “didn’t know” about the requirements of these regulations. That will have to wait for a while though; DHS will have its hands full getting 40,000+ facilities through registrationand Top Screen Submission.

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