Monday, January 7, 2008

Top Screen deadline nears

With the January 22, 2008 deadline for submission of Top Screens fast approaching, DHS has published some interesting new data on their web site. First on the Chemical Security Assessment Tool page they have posted notice that the deadline is 1-22-08 not the 1-18-08 date that I have been mentioning in my blogs. My date was determined by counting 60 days from 11-20-07. I don’t know how DHS arrived at the 1-22-08 date, but they run the program so theirs should be the date that counts.


For the first time on this site, DHS is also noting that extensions for the Top Screen deadline can be requested. DHS had specifically noted this in the Final Rule Appendix A with respect to colleges and universities. This is the first time that this procedure has been generally acknowledged on the DHS web site. There are no details other than a “formal” letter can be sent to:


Department of Homeland Security
Chemical Security and Compliance Division
Mail Stop 8100
Washington, DC 20528-8100


Also shown on that page is a link to a letter from Robert B. Stephan, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, announcing a temporary exemption from the requirement to complete a Top Screen for agricultural operations. Actually the letter calls it an extension of the filing deadline, but does not give a new date by which the Top Screen must be filed. That it should be more appropriately named an exemption is clear from reading the text of the letter.


“In the final Appendix A, DHS intended to limit the coverage of that requirement, as related to farmers and other agricultural users of the chemicals of interest, by revising screening thresholds and counting rules for certain chemicals. See 72 FR 65406-65407, 65415 (Nov. 20, 2007). Since publication of the final Appendix A, however, additional questions and concerns have been raised regarding the applicability of the Top-Screen requirement to agricultural facilities and operations. DHS is gathering more information about these issues in order to determine whether any modification of the Top-Screen requirements might be warranted.”


Additionally, the letter notes the new authority DHS has been given in the latest appropriations bill to regulate Ammonium Nitrate. This may allow DHS to remove fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate from Appendix A all together since it will be covered under new, as yet to be written regulations.


The letter very specifically limits the applicability of this exemption to agricultural operations and not companies that apply chemicals for such operations or chemical suppliers.


(2) “This extension applies to facilities such as farms (e.g., crop, fruit, nut, and vegetable); ranches and rangeland; poultry, dairy, and equine facilities; turfgrass growers; golf courses; nurseries; floricultural operations; and public and private parks.


(3) “This extension does not apply to chemical distribution facilities, or commercial chemical application services.”


We’ll have to watch the web site for further information on this new development. I don’t expect anything to happen too soon. DHS has been very slow to deal with political hot potatoes like this.

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