Friday, February 29, 2008

More Reader Comments on IST

Thomkay07 had some additional comments on IST. They were posted to my earlier blog on Congressional Hearings. Since one of the points of this blog is to get people discussing chemical security issues we’ll take a look at those comments.


Costs too High


Thomkay07 mentioned that my point that a company might move their operations off shore if their security costs were too high was briefly discussed in the hearing. The witness from New Jersey noted that no one had yet closed plants in that state because of the costs associated with new security rules there. To the best of my knowledge that hasn’t happened (or even been threatened) yet anywhere in the country.


My point wasn’t that the new rules in New Jersey or those proposed as part of CFATA of 2008 were going to cause anyone to lose money. I do not believe that these rules will require anyone to actually implement IST programs. The loopholes are so broad that no one who does not want to change their processes will be able to be required to do so.


All these rules do is to establish paperwork requirements that will place a small burden on the manufacturers to prepare the paperwork and an unwieldy burden on DHS to review the paperwork; all for no effect. Few, if any IST’s will be implemented due to this requirement. No one will be made safer, and DHS will have less time and manpower available to inspect and improve security at facilities around the country.


I do not want to yell that too loud. Well-minded people are likely to take that as a challenge to tighten up the IST requirements to the point that facilities will be required, against their best judgement, to implement IST. When we get to that point, my comment becomes much more probable.


I think that there are a large number of facilities that should probably institute some sort of IST program to make their facilities safer. The problem is how do you write a law to make this happen? I believe that the current CFATS regulations are probably going to be effective in the long run. Once companies get a good handle on how much security is going to cost they are going to find those IST measures that will reduce those costs.


Environmental Extremists


I almost edited that phrase out of my blog. It has the same potential for being misunderstood as the phrase “Islamic Terrorist”. Because an “Islamic Terrorist” is bad (from a western point of view at least), it does not mean that an Islamic person, an Islamic country or even Islamic politician is bad. I do think that environmental extremists are dangerous (just about any extremist is dangerous in my book), but that brush does not paint all environmentalists or even a sizeable minority of them.


People who propose that IST requirements be included in any chemical security legislation are not, ipso facto, environmental extremists. They are not even misguided idealists. They are simply people that think that the way you get businesses to do something is to write a law telling them to do it. I disagree.


Costs of IST


Thomkay07 makes the following statement:


“Of the hundreds of facilities across the country who have implemented IST, 1/3 expect to save money, 1/2 expect to even out, and more than half will spend less than $1 million to make the switch.”


His figures come from a 2006 report, Preventing Toxic Terrorism, prepared by the Center for American Progress. He makes the same mistake with those figures that its authors make. Their analysis was done by looking at companies that had completed voluntary IST programs. It did not include companies that had looked at and rejected IST projects on technical or financial grounds. Extrapolating those successful IST projects to all facilities, or even similar facilities is not appropriate. It does demonstrate that chemical companies will initiate IST’s without regulations requiring their implementation.


Once again, let me make this point as strongly as I can. There are certainly a significant number of facilities that could successfully implement IST techniques to improve their safety and security. The evaluation has to be made on a facility by facility, chemical by chemical basis. The question is how to get facilities to legitimately make that analysis?


How Not to Encourage IST


Section 2110 of the proposed legislation (according to the Section by Section analysis by the committee staff) requires that:


“… the facility security plan include an assessment of methods to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack on a facility. These include substitution of chemicals, changes in processes, storage or use of less of a chemical of concern on site, changes to safer practices, reducing consequences of equipment failure or human error, improvements in inventory control, and reduction or elimination of storage, transportation, handling, disposal, or discharge of substances of concern.”


A realistic assessment of IST possibilities will likely be a time consuming, resource intensive operation. Given the relatively short time frame, within which a site security plan has to be completed, most facilities will not opt for a realistic assessment. They will have someone prepare a quick, timely assessment that supports their current corporate view of the IST possibilities for their facility.


Furthermore, a negative assessment will be relatively easy to write. And, since most significant IST programs will take longer than the mandatory 180 days to implement (see: “Inherently Safer Technology, Pros and Cons”, a facility would be ill served by reporting that any but the easiest to implement IST is possible. In short, everything points to this requirement being just a paperwork drill.


DHS will, however, have to review each and every IST assessment as if it were a legitimate analysis. With the obvious Congressional interest in IST implementation, the attention applied to the IST assessment portion of the security plans will probably be higher than on the rest of the plan. In short, the paperwork drill for the facilities will turn into a paperwork mess for DHS.


Water Treatment Facilities


Water treatment facilities will probably have the most pressure to implement IST programs to eliminate the use of chlorine gas in their disinfection processes. Large storage tanks, transport trucks and rail cars of chlorine are fairly obvious potential terrorist targets. That, combined with a wide variety of alternative technologies for water disinfection, will make it difficult for water treatment facilities to justify keeping their chlorine injection systems.


Kevin Wattier’s testimony is a good example of how difficult it is to implement an IST program. Long Beach has been working on their substitution of on-site produced chlorine since 2004. They still have some time to go before they finally eliminate their chlorine storage tanks. Subsequent facilities will be able to learn from their efforts, but are unlikely to be able to meet the 180 day limit suggested by the draft legislation.


Thomkay07 provided a link to an article about the use of ozone to treat waste water in Montreal. This is another of the alternative water treatment schemes that may be an alternative to chlorine injection. As the article points out, its effectiveness depends on what is in the water. One point of error in the article though, oxygen is not the only byproduct of ozone treatment, CO2 is another byproduct.




For the third time; IST’s can be a legitimate method of reducing the threat of a terrorist attack or increasing site safety and should be encouraged. The technical and business people on site will have to make the determination if implementing IST’s is the best (or even a good) way to achieve these ends at that particular site.


The proposed wording in the CFATA of 2008 will not force anyone to implement any IST. If it makes Congress feel good about their role in increasing security and safety to put this modest requirement in the law, I guess this is a good thing. They just need to include increased funding for DHS personnel to review the paperwork.

No comments:

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