Sunday, November 4, 2007

DHS Revises Appendix A

On Friday DHS published the revised DHS Chemicals of Interest (COI), otherwise known as Appendix A to 6 CFR part 27. In response to over 4,000 comments received almost six months ago, DHS has made some significant revisions to the list of chemicals and Screening Threshold Quantities (STQ) that will trigger a requirement to complete a Top Screen for an estimated 40,000 chemical facilities. There are two big winners in this revision; the propane industry and the agriculture industry.


The propane industry was responsible for the bulk of the 4,300 comments DHS received, claiming that the 7,500 lb STQ listed in the proposed Appendix A was too low and would adversely affect a huge number of people; homeowners, farmers, ranchers and small business owners that could not possibly be targets of a terrorist attack. While DHS increased the STQ for other flammable gasses and liquids to 10,000 lbs it set the STQ for propane at 60,000 lbs and allowed individual tanks of less than 10,000 lbs to be excluded from calculations to determine the amount of propane at a facility.


Agriculture also benefited from the change in STQ for propane since a large number of farmers and ranchers use propane for heating and drying operations. Also benefiting agriculture, DHS removed urea, used as a fertilizer (along with a wide variety non-agricultural uses), from the COI; reasoning that controlling nitric acid was a better way of stopping urea from being used in the manufacture of IED’s. DHS also separated fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate from the explosive form of that chemical on the COI listing them separately. This allowed them to significantly increase the STQ for the fertilizer. Finally, chloropicrin, a former war gas, was removed from the list since it is more of an irritant than a toxic gas. Many farmers use this chemical as a soil fumigant.


Non-industrial laboratories (education, medical and testing labs) were another group that had significant comments on the proposed Appendix A last spring. Among other things, they objected to acetone being listed in Appendix A as well as having a general objection to the “any amount” STQ used for chemical weapons chemicals. DHS removed Acetone from the list, again recognizing that the other chemical (hydrogen peroxide, ≥35%, in this case) necessary to make an IED explosive was easier to track and control. Since acetone is such a ubiquitous solvent this will significantly reduce the number of labs that are required to submit Top Screens. DHS also got rid of the “any amount” STQ designation, but the new STQ for most of these chemical weapon precursors will be of little solace to many labs. A new designation of “Cum 100g”, a total combined quantity of 100g of any of these CW chemicals and their immediate precursors (CW Treaty Schedule 1 chemicals) will be little better than “any amount”. Other precursor chemicals (Schedule 2 and 3) get a somewhat more generous STQ of 2.2 lbs (Schedule 2) or 200 lbs (Schedule 3); these two categories will provide relief to many labs as will removing carbon monoxide from Appendix A.


DHS also modified the appendix to include something already seen in the Top Screen, definitions of the security issue for each chemical. The revised Appendix A formalizes the classifications of Release and Theft and provides for potentially separate STQs for each issue. Thus chlorine, for example, has a Release STQ of 2,500 lbs and a Theft STQ of 500 lbs. The difference is that all chlorine on site is used to calculate the Release STQ and only that chlorine stored in portable containers (up to and including tank wagons) needs to be counted for the Theft STQ. This was done to reflect the fact that a release of 2,500 lbs from a facility might cause significant effects off site while 500 lbs in portable containers could be taken to a place where terrorists could release it in an area without any of the safeguards found at a chemical facility.


DHS also addressed the issue of COI chemicals in mixtures. Many chemicals listed in the Appendix have a minimum concentration shown in the description. Most other chemicals fall under the 1% rule; if the chemical makes up less than 1% of the mixture it is not counted when determining the amount on hand for STQ purposes. For most of these chemicals, if they make up more than 1% of the mixture/solution, the amount to be counted for STQ purposes is the actual amount of the chemical present in the mixture (if a chemical is present at 10% in 1,000 lbs of a mixture only 100 lbs is counted in determining STQ). The major exception to this is for flammable liquids; if a flammable COI chemical is present at more than 1% and the mixture has an NFPA flammability rating of 4, then the total amount of the mixture must be counted when determining whether the facility has the STQ quantity on site.


DHS has not yet had the Final Rule for Appendix A printed in the Federal Register, so it has not yet formally gone into effect. Once the Final Rule is printed in the Federal Register any chemical facility that has (or has had) on site an amount of a listed chemical at or above the listed STQ will have 60 days from the date of publication to complete a Top Screen so that DHS can determine if the facility is at high risk for terrorist attack.

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