Thursday, January 17, 2008

Agriculture does not understand even the revised rules

I have wondered for some time how well the new CFATS rule is understood outside of the traditional chemical industry. With less than a week to go before the Top Screen deadline I have found some information that bodes ill for the success of this DHS attempt to protect our communities from terrorist attacks on chemical facilities.


One of the web sites that I routinely check is GCN.COM. A recent article by William P. Dizard III describes the agricultural extension recently granted by DHS for Top Screen completion. The article provides little information and that little information is confused and misunderstood. For example there is this excerpt from the middle of the article.


“The department’s online tool, the Chemical Security Anti-Terrorism (CSAT) Top Screen, is designed to assist farmers in complying with the CSAT Final Rule, a 41-page mandate that the department imposed Nov. 7.”


The ‘CSAT Final Rule’ referred to is actually the Appendix A final rule. The list of chemicals and their associated STQs provide direction to facilities to complete a Top Screen. The only one that receives any ‘assist’ from the Top Screen is DHS in that they are assisted in making the decision if the submitting facility is at high-risk of terrorist attack.


The interesting thing from this article was a link to a Michigan Farm Bureau site that explains the CFATS regulation to farmers and other agricultural businesses. This site does a pretty good job explaining the indefinite extension that DHS gave to farmers and ranchers in completing a Top Screen for agricultural chemicals. Additionally the site did point out that there may be a significant number of agricultural facilities that have anhydrous ammonia in significant quantities on site. This was a chemical that I missed in my earlier blog; Update on Agriculture Top Screen Extension.


There was a glaring error on this site. In their discussion of agricultural sites that would still have to complete a Top Screen by January 22nd, they made this comment about propane:


“Farms with ‘large vessel’ storage of propane, including Butane, at levels meeting or exceeding 60,000 pounds (14,285 gallons.)”


While propane does indeed have a 60,000 lb STQ, Butane has a much lower STQ of 10,000 pounds. I was not aware that Butane was used much as a commercial fuel, but then again, I have not spent any time in Minnesota. If they are talking about a Propane-Butane blend (possible, I guess), then the 1% concentration rule would require reporting the entire blend as Butane up to a quantity of 60,000 lbs. After 60,000 lbs the higher concentration component would be reported. The 10,000 lb minimum container rule would also no longer apply.


The same error was made in a publication that the Minnesota Farm Bureau produces, DHS Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Farm & Ranch Guide. Another error was made in this publication, an error in explaining the STQ for fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate (a Theft/diversion COI with an STQ of 2,000 lbs and a minimum concentration of 33%). The MFB publication states: “On the farm, this amounts to 100 fifty-pound bags of granular solid ammonium nitrate.” Their figure would be correct for an STQ of 5,000 lbs; it should be 40 bags (40 x 50 = 2000). The entire weight of a commercial blend in excess of 33% ammonium nitrate will be counted (page 41, Final Rule Appendix A)


These are significant errors in explaining the provisions of the CFATS regulations to a class of facilities that does not normally have an on-site regulation expert. The butane and ammonium nitrate errors could result in a significant under-reporting of these two COI on a number of Top Screens. Unfortunately, these are the types of publications that too many chemical facilities will rely upon to have these regulations explicated. It will be interesting to see how DHS goes about dealing with these errors when they are ultimately detected.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */