Wednesday, April 30, 2008

DHS Announces formation of Critical Manufacturing Sector

DHS published a notice in today’s Federal Register announcing the designation of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan Critical Manufacturing Sector. This new sector joins the current 17 Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) in the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP).

The Critical Manufacturing Sector was added to the NIPP because it "includes systems and operations that, if attacked or disrupted, would cause major interruptions to the essential functions of one or more other CIKR sectors and result in national-level impacts." Initially four industry systems are being included in this sector. They are:

  • Primary Metal Manufacturing
  • Machinery Manufacturing
  • Electrical Equipment, Appliance, and Manufacturing.
  • Transportation Manufacturing.

The criteria for the selection of the original 17 sectors were significantly different. Those criteria identified sectors whose failure or disruption could cause one or more of the following:

  • A large number of fatalities,
  • Significant first year national economic impact,
  • Mass evacuations with prolonged absences of six or more months, or
  • A loss of governance or mission execution that disrupts multiple regions or critical infrastructure sectors for more than one week resulting in loss of necessary services to the public.

The proposed Critical Manufacturing Sector does not include any chemical manufacturing components because there is already a Chemical Sector among the original 17. All four of these industry systems provide support to the chemical manufacturing industry. Unfortunately, in describing the elements of these industry systems there was no mention of two elements that are critical to the operation of the Chemical Sector,

  • Chemical Piping under Machinery Manufacturing
  • Chemical Control Systems under Electrical Equipment, Appliance and Manufacturing

Written comments on this new CIKR sector are being accepted through May 10th under docket number DHS-2008-0038.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reader Comments 4-28-08

Once again I am amazed at how wide a communication medium the internet is. For the second time since I started this blog on AOL I have received a comment from an overseas reader. This one posted her comment on where I post notices about my blogs as part of my marketing strategy. In response to my blog yesterday about the HAZMAT Team Conference (see: "International Hazardous Materials Response Teams Conference") Grace B from the Philippines posted the following response:

    • "This war on terror refuses to be a pandemic fear, in spite of ridiculously desperate efforts exerted by the harbingers of a paranoid world. Ease up." tried to keep discussions going on site, so I posted the following reply:

    • "While I agree that we should not be paralyzed by an unnatural fear of potential terrorist attacks, the people that are responsible for chemical facilities do have to take reasonable precautions to prevent that unlikely eventuality. The risk of being wrong is just too high. Additionally, the procedures used to prevent terrorist attacks will also help to prevent chemical accidents and even random acts of vandalism. Finally, the law in the United States requires that chemical facilities take these precautions. I am just facilitating the discussion of the types of measures that a reasonable management team would take to comply with those laws."

Considering that Grace B lives in a country where there is an active terrorist organization that is involved in nearly open warfare with the central government, I think that her comments are very hopeful for the world.

I think that if terrorists ever get successful to the point that they cause ‘pandemic fear’ then they have won. We on the other side of the war, those of us who are not ‘harbingers of a paranoid world’, would do well to keep that in mind as we discuss our preparations to protect our facilities against a possible terrorist attack.

We must remember that most of our efforts will ultimately be futile. The individual facility that we are protecting will probably never be attacked. Some may be attacked, but the vast majority will never be attacked. Prudence dictates that we prepare, but our humanity calls for us to remember that our staffs, contractors and surrounding community should not be so violently assaulted with our preparations that we move them to the same fear that the terrorists are trying to instill in their attacks.

Emergency Response Exercise – Hamilton County, TN

I have taken part in more than a few emergency response exercises over too many years. In the military we called them ‘alerts’ and practiced many of the things that we would do in the event of the sudden need to go to war. In chemical plants we practiced what we would do in the event of fires, explosions and leaks. The more completely the system is tested, the better the response will be in the event of an actual emergency. That’s why I was happy to see how extensive the emergency response drill being conducted today in Hamilton County, TN is planned to be.

According to the report from the Chattanooga Times Free Press (courtesy of, in addition to the annual fire department, hazmat, police department drill at the local training center, the exercise will utilize the Reverse 911 system to notify local residents about the exercise. Just in case some people misunderstand the notification and think it is the real thing, the local health department is manning a phone bank to answer questions and explain what is going on.

Evaluation of the exercise is as important as the actual exercise itself. This has not been lost on the planners of this exercise. The article quotes an emergency response coordinator from the health department as saying that after the test, the health department will call some residents and ask them to take a survey to gauge how well the exercise worked.

Congratulations to the men and women of the emergency response community of Hamilton County, TN. It sounds like you are going to be having a valuable drill today. Good luck, have fun, and hopefully you’ll never have to do it for real.

Inherently Safer Technology Assessment under HR 5577

This is part of a continuing series taking a detailed look at the provisions of the new Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2008 recently introduced in Congress (HR 5577IH). Today’s entry looks at Section 2110(a) that deals with the assessment of methods to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack under CFATA of 2008.

Previous blogs in this series include:

Section 2110 is based on the concept that if the use of a dangerous chemical at a high-risk chemical facility is reduced or eliminated, the level of risk at that facility is reduced. This commonly known as inherently safer technology (IST). Simple in concept, the analysis of possible methods, the assessment of the viability of those potential methods and implementation of such methods is very complex and politically controversial.

Methods to Reduce the Consequences of Terrorist Attack

Section 2101(11) provides a list of methods to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack, They include:

(A) input substitution;

(B) catalyst or carrier substitution;

(C) process redesign (including reuse or recycling of a substance of concern);

(D) product reformulation;

(E) procedure simplification;

(F) technology modification;

(G) use of less hazardous substances or benign substances;

(H) use of smaller quantities of substances of concern;

(I) reduction of hazardous pressures or temperatures;

(J) reduction of the possibility and potential consequences of equipment failure and human error;

(K) improvement of inventory control and chemical use efficiency; and

(L) reduction or elimination of the storage, transportation, handling, disposal, and discharge of substances of concern.

While it is usually the first method, substitution of raw materials, that gets the most attention, this is actually a fairly comprehensive list of techniques that chemical companies typically look at to reduce process costs. I am sure that, until recently, most companies did not include reducing the risks of terrorist attacks as one of the criteria that they used when evaluating these process change options. I am also sure that most chemical companies have looked at a number of these options in developing or updating their processes.

Facilities will find that many of these methods were reviewed during HAZOP or Process Safety reviews for the processes involved. Many of these consequence reviews will be able to use the materials developed during the previous safety reviews. This emphasizes what many supporters of IST have maintained all along, that safety and security often go hand in hand.

Assessment as Part of Site Security Plan

All facilities that are required to complete a site security plan (SSP) under section 2103 (see: "Ranking of Chemical Facilities by HR 5577") are required to conduct an assessment of the methods to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack. In effect this means that each process at the facility that uses one or more of the chemicals that are required to be reported to DHS will have to be formally reviewed. Other dangerous chemicals do not need to be reviewed, except as part of the review of the other chemicals.

There are four requirements that these reviews must meet:

    • Description of the methods assessed.
    • The degree to which the method reduced the consequences of an attack.
    • The technical and financial viability of the implementing the methods.
    • Additional information used in the evaluation

The wording of this section {Section 2110(a)(1)} implies that the facility is not required to evaluate each of 12 methods for each of the chemicals covered by these regulations. How many of the methods are actually looked at will depend on the chemical, the process, and the facility. No one will take the review seriously, however, if the replacement of the dangerous chemicals with less dangerous alternatives is not considered as one of the methods.

Reduced the Consequences of an Attack

The reduced consequences of an attack are evaluated by determining how the change would reduce the "potential extent of death,injury, or serious adverse effects to human health" {Section 2110(a)(2)}. A change that would reduce the potential deaths, but increase the number possibly injured may be a reduction in the consequences, or it may not, depending on the number of people involved.

Determining the degree to which the analyzed method reduces the consequences of a terrorist attack will not always be clear-cut. Replacing chemicals with less toxic chemicals may reduce the hazard unless a larger volume of the new chemical extends the distance a toxic cloud might drift.

If risk calculations can be made, the methodology should be documented. If the risks are estimated, the assumptions that were made as part of that estimate need to be clearly explained.

Technical and Financial Viability

The technical viability of a proposed method may be easy to evaluate if the change is well established and understood. The technical viability of a process or chemical change that has been evaluated in a corporate lab may be easier to estimate than one that has only been reviewed in an academic lab. In either case the estimate of technical viability of a method that is still in laboratory rather than manufacturing development needs to include the best estimate of time and money that will be required to move that method out of the laboratory and into full scale production.

The variables that go into the analysis of financial viability of implementing a method of reducing consequences of a terrorist attack may be just as difficult to determine as those in the evaluation of technical viability if the change has not yet been commercially implemented. Some of the factors that should be considered are the costs of development, costs of implementation, and potential savings from the change. Savings need to include the costs of any security and safety measures that can be avoided by implementing the measure.

Monday, April 28, 2008

One University’s Response to CFATS

I ran across an article today about the University of Cincinnati’s response to the CFATS reporting requirements. Back in December of 2007, when it became obvious that DHS expected university laboratories to comply with the CFATS requirements, the University notified each faculty member of the requirement to submit a chemical inventory by February 1st of this year.

This gave the University’s VP for Research time to review and verify the submitted data before their March 22nd deadline (UC apparently took advantage of the 60-day reporting extension offered by DHS) to complete a Top Screen), if required. It turned out that the university did not have any of the chemicals of interest (COI) present in excess of the screening threshold quantity (STQ), so a Top Screen was not required.

The article did note that UC used the option of declaring each building housing chemicals to be a different ‘facility’ under the CFATS regulations. That meant that each building’s inventory was individually compared against the STQ requirements for the COI on hand. The article did not note if the University would have had to complete a Top Screen submission if they had opted to classify the entire institution as a single facility.

While no security rules were violated in the publishing of this article, I am sure that DHS would just as soon not see a large number of such articles published. The contents of a Top Screen submission would be considered Chemical Vulnerability Information (CVI), and as such could not be released for publication. Presumably for a facility to submit a Top Screen should also be considered CVI, since that would be the admission of the presence of a COI in excess of the STQ.

Facilities that did not have to submit a Top Screen are not covered by CVI rules. If enough facilities published the fact that they were not required to submit Top Screens, facilities that did not publish that fact would be presumed to have an STQ amount of a CVI. Thus, their security could be effectively compromised by the innocent acts of others.

Just another example of the conflict in a free society between the requirements for security and the public’s right to know.

Comments on Rail Security and Safety Rules – 4-25-08

There are currently three rules recently published in the Federal Register dealing with the security and safety of rail transportation of various hazardous chemicals. All three rules are in the comment period. Generally speaking the comments made on each of these rules are posted on the web site. Periodically we will review the comments posted on that site.

PIH Tank Car Rule

Comments are to be submitted by June 2, 2008. To date there are two comments posted since the proposed rule was published. One comment was made by a college student and the other was made by a company, TGO Technologies that has a design for an improved chlorine railcar. Sarah V of Westfield State College was generally supportive of the attempt to increase the safety of railcars transporting TIH chemicals.

Route Security Analysis Rule

Comments are to be submitted by May 16, 2008. PHMSA has added two documents to the docket since the interim final rule was published; an environmental assessment and a regulatory assessment. No other comments have been posted.

Appeal of Adverse Rail Routing Decisions Rule

Comments are to be submitted by June 16, 2008. No comments have been posted since the proposed rule was published.


PHMSA requested input on a series of specific questions addressed to the railroads, the chemical industry and the water treatment industry. While there is still some time before the close of the comment period, it is disappointing that there have been no replies to date from those industries in almost a month since the rule was published.

While it has been just a little more than a week since the route analysis rule was released, this is a very controversial rule. There have been a number of adverse comments in the press from a number of organizations. None of those comments have made it to this docket.

International Hazardous Materials Response Teams Conference

The IHMTRT Conference will be held May 29th thru June 1st of this year at Hunt Valley, MD. This conference addresses the training and equipment for the hazardous material response teams that would respond to terrorist attacks at chemical facilities (among other incidents, of course). As such it might be interesting to look at some of the issues that will be addressed in selected informational sessions at this conference.

Friday Sessions

There will be 29 sessions on Friday, but two of the sessions on Friday, May 30th that will be of specific interest to readers of this blog:

  • 108: Special Operations for Terrorism Response
  • 204: The Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Fusion Center

The first session will be conducted by members of the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit. They will be discussing those things that responders need to consider when they are responding to a known or suspected terrorist attack. This will be similar to AFSOI class that I discussed in an earlier blog (see: "Terrorist Attack as a Crime Scene")

The second session will be an update on the establishment of Hazmat Fusion Center. This is part of a developing program to ensure that intelligence and lessons learned are shared between various levels of government and industry. Attendees will have a chance to put in their two cents worth on how that center should be developed.

Saturday Session

The 33 sessions on Saturday will provide a wider selection for personnel looking for information that could pertain to terrorist attacks on chemical facilities or transportation. Those sessions will include:

  • 405: Evidence Awareness during Terrorism Incidents
  • 605: Recognition of IED’s
  • 606: Keeping Your Exercises on the Rails

The first session will again be lead by an FBI team (the same team that lead the Friday session) and will concentrate more on the preserving of evidence and working with the FBI investigation team. The point of this session is not to teach you to collect evidence, but to preserve it until the professional investigators get on scene.

The recognition of IED’s is important to anyone that responds to a terrorist attack. Probably the most common terrorist tactic is to use an IED left at the scene of an attack to conduct a secondary attack on first responders. Any time you respond to a suspected terrorist attack you should be looking for IED’s and this will help you do that.

The third Saturday session deals with keeping an emergency response exercise flowing in the direction that you intend. Keeping an exercise focused and in control is important an important component in making it successful. This session is directed at those people that plan and execute these exercises rather than the emergency response personnel taking part.

Additional Saturday Sessions of Interest

There are four additional sessions on Saturday that will provide some good information for response to industrial hazmat incidents. These will not necessarily include data specific to terrorist attacks, but the general lessons will be applicable.

  • 406: Monomers and Polymerization Reactions
  • 407: Liquefied Toxic Gases: Simple Methods of Quickly Reducing the Risk Zone
  • 505: The Development of New TIH Tank Cars
  • 608: Emergency Response to Laboratory Incidents

Monomers can be toxic, flammable, and even corrosive. More importantly they are self reactive and the strangest things can cause those reactions to get quickly out of control. Hazmat responders need to have a basic understanding of these very common chemicals so that they do not make a bad situation worse by making good-intentioned bad decisions.

Liquefied toxic gases have the potential for quickly expanding the scope of a hazmat site. The second session will cover some methods for controlling the vapor cloud that results when these liquids are released from containment. It will include some simple new techniques developed in Sweden.

The third session deals with the new rail cars that are being developed to transport TIH, toxic inhalation hazard, chemicals. These rail cars are 18,000 gallon potential WMD. These new cars are going to make it less likely that they will release their contents during derailments. First responders will certainly appreciate these changes.

The fourth session deals with how to minimize the collateral damage caused by responders at hazmat incidents in laboratories. This session will familiarize personnel with typical laboratory procedures and set-ups allowing the responder to deal with hazmat situations in labs more effectively while keeping the research disruption to a necessary minimum.

Facility Security Officers

Facility security officers are need to include local first responders in the emergency response plans. While there is no substitute for talking with the people that will actually be responding, attending this conference may be a good way for security officers to get a better understanding of what to expect from first responders. Understanding and communication; these are two good tools in any emergency response situation.

Third Party Entities under HR 5577

This is part of a continuing series taking a detailed look at the provisions of the new Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2008 recently introduced in Congress (HR 5577IH). Today’s entry looks at Section 2109 that deals with the certification of third party entities under CFATA of 2008.

Previous blogs in this series include:

Acknowledging that DHS will not have enough personnel resources to ensure that the provisions of regulations required under this legislation are adequately complied with, the Committee provided for the hiring of outside contractors to provide needed assistance. These contractors are known as "Third Party Entities". Section 2109 sets forth the requirements for those contractors.

Areas of Operation

Contractors can be used in three areas of enforcement of the revised CFAT rules:

  • Alternative security plan reviews,
  • Site inspections, and
  • Site security plan reviews

Alternative security plans are authorized under HR 5577. Before they can be approved by the Secretary they must be reviewed to ensure that they comply with all of the minimum requirements for plans covered in this legislation. This review will time consuming and manpower intensive. With timely review a requirement, DHS will need outside assistance to get these reviews completed.

With potentially thousands of facilities to inspect for compliance, DHS is woefully undermanned. Using contractors to complete this requirement will ensure that each facility will be looked at. It will also allow DHS inspectors to concentrate on the highest risk facilities and facilities with identified problems.

While the Top Screen and Security Vulnerability Analyses can be automated to a large degree, the same may not be said for Site Security Plans. With a requirement to complete the review of a site security plan within 180 days of submission, DHS will be hard pressed to look at all of these plans without outside assistance.

Establish Procedures

Before contractors can be assigned responsibilities under these rules the Secretary has to establish standard operating procedures and requirements that they will be operating under. Current DHS regulations (subtitle G, Title VIII of the Homeland Security Act) specify a number of reviews that these procedures and requirements must undergo before they can be implemented.

Additionally, DHS is going to be required to complete a thorough review of the contractor’s ‘business engagements’ to ensure that there will be no conflict of interests in their enforcement of these regulations. Specifically, DHS is required to "disqualify any of these organizations that offer related auditing or consulting services to chemical facilities as private sector vendors" {Section 2109(c)(4)}.

This is going to be one of the most time consuming parts of implementing these new regulations. DHS has shown no great speed in writing rules or regulations and the additional reviews are going to slow this down further. The use of third party entities will be key to the enforcement of these regulations.

Small Business Contracting Requirements

The Committee has taken great pains to require that DHS contractors and sub-contractors come form a wide variety of selected small business and disadvantage business concerns. Among those specifically mentioned are businesses ‘owned and controlled’ by service disable veterans, ‘HubZone’ businesses, and ‘socially and economically disadvantaged’ small businesses. Black, Hispanic and Tribal colleges and universities are also included.

Contractors must show that they have a plan for including 25% of their sub-contractors come from such businesses. DHS is encouraged to use alliances of such businesses as prime contractors under this section. The DHS IG is required to report each year on the number of contractors and subcontractors meeting these definitions.

Liability Requirements

Once the Secretary issues a Certificate of Compliance to a contractor, and the contractor has provided proof of liability insurance coverage under existing DHS rules (subtitle G again) that contractor (including employees and sub-contractors) "shall receive all applicable litigation and risk management protections" {Section 2109(f)(3)}. This means that they will not have to defend themselves in lawsuits arising out of the business conducting their contractual duties.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cybersecurity Bypassed Through Backdoor?

I ran across an interesting article yesterday on It tells the story of a potentially serious security breach of government computer systems. It seems that some contractors updating government IT systems found a real good, cheap source for Cisco routers, those high-tech, high-cost keys to successful computer systems. It seems that these ‘Cisco’ routers had never been in a Cisco facility; they were counterfeits manufactured in China.

The fear is that there may be undetectable back door access designed into these systems to allow the Chinese government or Chinese gangs into these secure networks. At this point no one knows what may have been compromised or may be compromised in the future. Not good.

Effect on Chemical Facility Security?

So, what does this have to do with chemical facility security? Anyone that has been in the chemical industry in the last 10 years knows that the Chinese chemical industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Some of that growth is in partnership with American and European chemical companies; a large portion is in competition with American and European chemical companies.

While most of the discussions about chemical facility security in recent years have dealt with the threat from terrorist attack, facilities still need to worry about protecting their business from a variety of economic attacks. Those attacks could be theft of critical formulas and technology or disruption of production to gain economic advantage. A recent CIA report highlighted the threat of extortion as another recently seen method of attack.

While few chemical facilities will be acquiring high-end Cisco servers, they will frequently replace, upgrade or install new computer equipment. With the problem the government is having finding the holes in these suspect systems, what is a chemical company with a small IT department to do? The best defense is to only buy equipment from reputable suppliers and be wary of too-low priced bids for electronic systems; the deal may be really bad.

Is This the Only Problem?

With more and more equipment being manufactured in China, we might need to worry about more than just counterfeits. China is making everything from chips to desktop and laptop computers. While much of that production is for internal consumption, the Chinese are actively marketing these products in the United States.

While there have been some reports of Chinese hardware coming complete with viruses, there have, as yet, been no reports suggesting that Chinese computers and peripherals have been designed with the same sort of back doors that have been reported in the Cisco counterfeits. That may be just because no one is looking.

It may be just a little bit of paranoia on my part, but I would be very leery of hooking up a Chinese manufactured computer to my security sensitive computer network, especially anything connected with SCADA or dedicated safety systems. I would hate to find out the hard way that I had allowed the Chinese military or criminals access to my sensitive systems.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Regulate the Sale of Ammonium Nitrate

I’m sure the blogosphere is full of stories about the South Carolina teenager that was going to blow up his high school with an ammonium nitrate bomb. I would like to add a brief piece to the discussion from a slightly different perspective, the sale of the ammonium nitrate. I saw one news report on CBS-TV Tuesday morning that an interviewee (I did not get the guys name, I’m sorry) bemoaned the lack of action in the US Senate on a bill to control the sale of ammonium nitrate. I would like to set the record straight on that issue.

He was referring to H.R. 1680, the ‘‘Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act of 2007’’. A search of www.Thomas.Loc.Gov (an excellent source for tracking legislation) shows that the last action on this legislation was on October 24, 2007. That action was "Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs." This may be where the interviewee got his information.

Actually, the reason that there has been no further action taken on this bill is that it was incorporated into the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (HR 2764), passed and signed into law last December (see: "DHS and the Omnibus Spending Bill"). Subtitle J, Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate, of that bill is a virtual duplicate of H.R. 1680. So Congress and the President have taken action on regulating the sale of ammonium nitrate.

DHS is in the process of drafting rules that would require the registration of sellers and buyers of ammonium nitrate. They have until the end of June of this year to publish the proposed rules. Though I am not privy to the development of those rules, I am quite sure that they would prohibit the type sale that allowed this teenager to buy 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate over eBay.

A special note: today on eBay I found only two listings for ammonium nitrate (the chemical):

  • Ammonium Nitrate Laboratory Chemical Reagent 30 grams (Item number: 190216386872)
  • Ammonium Nitrate, 99% Pure, Custom Milled 1oz Bottles (Item number: 180212290376)

Anhydrous Ammonia Incident

On Monday night in the small town of Bargersville, IN someone opened a valve on an anhydrous ammonia tank at Roy Umbarger & Sons Inc., a local farm supply store, allowing the ammonia to drain out on the ground. The county hazmat team knocked down the vapor cloud with a water mist. Two people, a nearby resident and a paramedic were taken to nearby hospitals with breathing problems. Nearby residents evacuated for about an hour, though no evacuation was ordered. A subsequent investigation found an open valve on another tank two blocks away.

Vandalism or Terrorist Attack?

With anhydrous ammonia leaks in rural areas like this, the immediate suspect is a local methamphetamine producer looking for raw materials. According to a local newspaper report the local police felt that "the fact that the valves were totally opened and there appeared to be no effort to capture the chemical leads them to believe it was a simple act of vandalism". One wonders what kind of vandal opens valves on two anhydrous ammonia tanks.

Anhydrous ammonia is toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) chemical that is toxic and corrosive. The liquid would have caused chemical burns to any exposed skin that it came in contact with. As soon as the liquid ammonia started flowing out of the opened valve it started to vaporize. The ammonia fumes would have burned the eyes, nose, throat and lungs of any unprotected person in the immediate area. A common canister protective mask would provide protection for only minutes.

For the conspiracy theorists in the audience, the owner of Roy Umbarger & Sons is R. Martin Umbarger, Major General, Adjutant General of the Indiana National Guard. This means that there could easily be a political connection to this ‘vandalism’.

What is the difference between vandalism and terror attack? I can immediately think of two general differences, scope and motivation. A terror attack is generally larger in scope than vandalism and is politically motivated rather than personally motivated. Unfortunately, neither of those scales is absolute; they blend together in the fuzzy middle.

So where does this fall? Probably on the side of vandalism, but it deserves a close look none the less.

Security Considerations

Needless to say, the security implications for this incident are enormous. At the very least those valves should have been locked closed. The tanks should have been within a protected perimeter (a locked, chain-link fence topped with barbed wire at a minimum). Presumably there was no guard on site, so there should have been video surveillance. Well, that is my opinion any way; remember there are no specific security rules required in CFATS.

Obviously, there is no way of knowing if this facility has been designated a high-risk facility, or even if the owner has completed a Top Screen. Since this is a farm supply facility I am assuming that the tank would hold between a truckload and a rail car load (it is adjacent to a rail line) of anhydrous ammonia. This would certainly be enough to have required CSAT Registration and Top Screen Submission.

So what happens if the authorities do decide that it may have been a terror attack? Does the President come to Bargersville and publicly denounce this cowardly attack, or does the investigation proceed as quietly as possible to try to round up the culprits? That is an interesting political question and one that I am glad that I do not have to make.

One thing that I am sure would happen is that other facilities in similar circumstances (small-town farm-supply companies selling anhydrous ammonia from bulk tanks) would be notified of the potential threat and warned to take extra precautions. And now we have a way to do that quickly (and quietly if so desired); DHS has the email address of at least one individual at each such facility. It should be just a quick sort of a database and the email can go directly to the desired facilities. Another advantage of the CSAT and Top Screen systems.

The Way Forward

I do hope that the authorities at all levels are looking at this particular incident and not just blindly writing it off as a case of vandalism. This incident smells worse (no real pun intended) than the chlorine cylinder incident last year in Texas (see: "Chlorine cylinder still missing"). It certainly doesn’t sound like Al Qaeda or wanna be jihadists as there has been no claim of responsibility. But it also does not sound like your typical case of rural vandalism. There is a lot of area between those two possibilities.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Terrorist Attack as a Crime Scene

There is an interesting article on the Air Force news site, coming out of Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. It describes a recent training exercise conducted by an Air Force Office of Special Investigations crime scene investigator on how to process a hazardous materials incident. In all of our thinking about preventing a terrorist attack, it is easy to forget that a successful attack, or even a failed attempt at an attack, is at its root a crime.

When the smoke clears and the area is decontaminated, what’s left is a crime scene. It is the start of an investigation that should lead to arrests and prosecutions. A successful prosecution will require finding and preserving evidence from what is essentially a WMD incident. While it is expected that the FBI and other federal agencies will take the lead in the investigation, local first responders will be in the middle of any such incident long before the Feds get there.

This is certainly beyond the scope of a facility security plan, but it does show again why it is so important to bring the local emergency services into the security planning process as soon as possible. Cities like Charleston, WV or Houston, TX should be expected to routinely conduct training on chemical incident crime scene investigations. Smaller cities or cities with a less prominent chemical industry probably do not do such training. Early notice would allow them to get individuals and trainers up to speed on the necessary techniques.

DHS and the FBI should establish a training program for WMD crime scene preservation. The program would be aimed at first responders to a terrorist attack at a chemical facility or an attack with chemical weapons. Most students would probably be drawn from fire department HAZMAT teams. Priority should be given to cities with identified high-risk chemical facilities.

The course would include familiarization with the FBI 12-step procedure for processing an WMD incident site. It would concentrate on allowing the responders to recognize important evidence and how to preserve it until the crime scene investigation team arrived. It is especially important to identify these clues before the decontamination process is started.

While every effort should be made to prevent terrorist attacks at chemical facilities, emergency response plans for such attacks should also include a plan for processing the scene after an attack. This is not the responsibility of the facility management, but of the local emergency services. To effectively fulfill this responsibility they must be made part of the emergency planning process as early as possible

Weather Service HAZMAT Page

I ran across a very brief notice at yesterday. It noted that the National Weather Service had created a special HAZMAT page for the Chicago area. The one paragraph article notes that Chicago is a rail, highway and air hub. It noted that those hubs could create "special HAZMAT situations".

Chicago HAZMAT Support Page

I went to the indicated page and sure enough there it was. It is not an extensive page so I’ll reproduce the information almost completely. I checked two other cities NWS sites and did not find a comparable page.

"NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CHICAGO HAZMAT SUPPORT PAGE The National Weather Service office in Romeoville is the primary agency for real-time atmospheric expertise and NCEP model guidance 24 hours a day. Recent events including terrorist incidents, accidental releases of hazardous materials, and the potential use of weapons of mass destruction have resulted in enhanced coordination between the emergency response community and the National Weather Service.

Support offered by the National Weather Service includes but is not limited to:

    • "interpretation of current and forecasted weather conditions
    • "trajectory/dispersion modeling (HYSPLIT)
    • "actual on-scene weather support for weather interpretation and incident mitigation

"National Weather Service Hazmat support can be initiated by contacting the Romeoville office at: 815-834-0651, 24 hours a day / 7 days a week."

Emergency Response Plan Aid

Any chemical facility in the Chicago area should contact their office to find out what information is available and how to best use it. I am not familiar with the HYSPLIT model, but a quick web search shows that it has been used to predict movement of smoke clouds and potential downwind dispersion of radioactive fallout. It is probably not something that one would want to try to learn on the fly, but it could certainly be valuable to predict the movement of a toxic cloud.

The potential value of this type information in an actual HAZMAT situation is immeasurable. Any facility developing a chemical emergency response plan in the Chicago area should certainly investigate this site.

Why Only Chicago?

I’m not sure that this service is limited to the Chicago area, I only had time for a limited search. If it is just a trial program by the NWS, then DHS needs to get involved to see what can be done to get this duplicated in other parts of the country. Areas such as North New Jersey, Houston, TX, Charleston, WV to name just a few, all come to immediate mind as areas that could find this to be an invaluable part of their emergency response toolbox.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reply – Blog Comment 4-21-08

Fred Millar had a comment on one of the incident reviews from yesterday’s blog (see "Chemical Incident Review – 4-21-08"). He said: "Seems too difficult for the chemical industry to learn what the gasoline station folks did many years ago -- make nozzles and tank openings different/incompatible for incompatible chemicals."

Actually the problem is a little more complex than nozzles in holes when your doing bulk unloading for up to 60 different chemicals. Trucks and rail cars come with standard fittings for 2", 3" or 4" hoses so you are limited in available combinations.

In the last facility that I worked at we came up with a fairly good system that worked for 16 years without incident that I know of. We had three dedicated bulk-unloaders, no one else was authorized to unload from a tank wagon or rail car into a storage tank. This helped to limit the problem.

All of the hose connections to storage tanks were locked with two padlocks and each lock of the pair was keyed differently. The shift supervisor had a master key to one of the locks and QA had a keys to one lock on each valve. At the start of each shift the shift supervisor removed his lock from each line that was scheduled to deliver that day. To get the key from QA the bulk-unloader had to take the paperwork from the load that identified the chemical being delivered. Once QA approved the incoming material (usually by checking CoA values against the approved values) the technician gave the unloader the key to the appropriate storage tank.

This works well if you trust the paperwork that accompanies the truck. Like I say we never had a problem in 16 years. Of course, we never had a terrorist attack.

I’ve brainstormed this problem with a couple of different people over the last couple of years. The best solution to prevent a terrorist attack via this method is to do the reactivity test I briefly described in the blog. You take a small sample (a couple of drops) of the incoming chemical and place in a small (about 1 oz/30 mL) sample from the storage tank and observe for a reaction. Ideally this should be done in a fume hood behind a small blast shield, just in case. This does not stop all quality problems, but it does take care of the catastrophic ones.

Everyone that has worked in chemical manufacturing has heard of or experienced at least one wrong chemical into the wrong tank story. Almost everyone that I have heard was due to a truck driver being required to do the unloading. It is amazing how many facilities still allow/require that. A company that I worked for required the receiving facility manager to sign a blanket release before we would allow one of our truck drivers to unload at their facility. Still about once a year one of our drivers would unload into the wrong tank.

DHS FAQ Web Page Update – 4-22-08

DHS posted three new questions/answers on their FAQ pages today. None of them appear to be earth shaking, unless you are the one asking the question. The questions are:

  • How does the Statutory Exemption Section apply? (1394)
  • A facility has 2 RMP ID numbers, which one would they use? (1397)
  • Are Chemicals of Interest (COI’s) in hazardous waste to be counted towards an STQ? (1398)

The first question deals with facilities that do not have to complete Top Screens due to statutory exemptions (DOD, water treatment facilities, etc). In the Top Screen there are a series of questions that aid in determining if the facility meets one of the exemption criteria. A ‘Yes’ answer to one of these questions drops you out of the Top Screen, presumably indicating that the facility is not required to complete the Top Screen. It seems that that ‘presumably’ is not the final answer; there is this note in the answer to question 1394:

    • "Please note that even though a facility may exit the Top Screen by claiming an exemption, DHS does not necessarily concede the applicability of such an exemption in any given case."

The last question would be of particular interest to facilities that produce, process or use off-specification hazardous wastes. It seems that this is the only category of hazardous wastes that must be counted for determining STQ and Top Screen reporting quantities.

A Response to Complaints about CFATS

There was a prototypical anti-business article yesterday on the Rocky Mountain News web site. Heather Maurer from CoPIRG wrote a Speakout piece about chemical facility security. She started off with an apocalyptic list of chemical accidents from the last couple of years. She then trotted out the standard figures about the number of facilities that threaten more than a million or more than 100,000 people in the event of a catastrophic release. All familiar data to those of us in the chemical industry.

Chemical Industry Underestimated

Unfortunately, she then grossly under estimated the number of chemical facilities in the country. She cites a figure of 14,000, but DHS reported, in Congressional testimony on February 26th of this year, that 23,264 chemical facilities had completed a Top Screen submission. These were chemical facilities that had at least a screening threshold quantity (STQ) of one or more of 322 dangerous Chemicals of Interest.

A large number of additional facilities had requested a 60 day extension of the requirement to make that filing. An unknown number of other chemical facilities exist that do not have any (or did not have an STQ amount) of these particular hazardous chemicals, but still had dangerous chemicals on site. Finally, there are another unknown number of chemical facilities that only had relatively safe chemicals on site. The chemical industry is an integral part of the American economy and much larger than most people understand.

Every chemical facility manager I have met has had concerns about the security of their facility. Some are doing more about those concerns than others. In my opinion few are doing anywhere near enough; not out of a lack of concern, but out of lack of knowledge. Security is not something that has been taught as part of the chemical engineering curriculum. Government regulation is correcting that, it is providing on-the-job-training in facility security requirements.

Inherently Safer Technology Overestimated

The article then claims to have the answer to the danger from chemical facilities. Heather states that: "Any coherent solution must make use of American ingenuity and place these facilities on a path to replacing inherently dangerous chemical processes with safer and more secure technologies."

Anyone that has read this blog over the last year knows that I believe in Inherently Safer Technology (see: "More Reader Comments on IST"). But IST is not a panacea. There are only a relatively small number of hazardous chemicals, in a limited number of situations, which can be readily replaced by safer chemicals or technologies. As the cost of facility security increases (as the DHS regulations take effect), more and more of those situations will be converted without legislative fiat.

Ignoring "(t)raditional security measures, such as guards and fences" to demand mandatory IST short changes real security. A balanced approach is necessary to achieve true security while maintaining American jobs.

Employees Are Involved

The second portion of her "bold national policy" for chemical security is to allow employees "to participate in the development of safety and security measures". I don’t know who she thinks is doing safety reviews now (in depth security reviews are just now being formalized in most facilities), but it is certainly not upper management. Plant managers may participate in large project reviews, but most of the work is done by first line engineers and chemists; the people who understand the processes.

In my sixteen years working in a chemical plant, every safety review that I participated in included at least one hourly employee. They were always an excellent source of information on how employees reacted to various instructions or stimuli, but they knew no more, or less, about "how to make them (the plants) safer" than anyone else in the review.

All employees, from the facility manager on down, must be an integral part of the security plan for the facility. Everyone must understand the security rules and abide by them. Everyone must be an observer for the unusual, the indicators of a potential terrorist attack. A security plan that does not have the active, enthusiastic participation of every employee is a plan that can be exploited to allow for a successful terrorist attack.

H.R. 5577 - A Comprehensive Chemical Security Program

Ms. Maurer lauds the House Homeland Security Committee for the introduction of H.R. 5577, a bill that will "replace this limited temporary program with a comprehensive chemical security program." She is correct that this bill will replace the interim final rule that is known as CFATS. When congress passed the Section 550 authorization for DHS to implement this rule, it was with the understanding that the politicians would look at what the chemical security experts at DHS came up with and modify it as necessary.

According to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, while H.R. 5577 "makes a stronger promotion of lowering off site consequences, requires employee training, protects against Whistleblowers and illegitimate use of background checks, it does not change the function of the CFATS regulation" In other words, the bulk of the current regulations remain in effect.

The two most significant changes to CFATS made by this proposed legislation are the inclusion of Whistleblower protections (see: "Whistleblower Provisions of HR 5577") and the specifications for the use of, and restrictions on, background checks for all employees (see: "Personnel Background Checks and HR 5577"). Unfortunately, it is still early in the legislative process for this legislation, so it is still too soon to see how the legislation will turn out or if it will even survive.

Security Is Moving Forward

Contrary to the opinion of Heather Maurer, the chemical industry is moving forward with a mandatory, comprehensive, government-supervised security program. Tens of thousands of facilities have provided data to the government about their inventory of dangerous chemicals. The facilities that pose the highest risk to potential terrorist attack have been identified by an objective set of rules.

Those high-risk facilities are beginning to complete a comprehensive security vulnerability analysis (SVA) that will be individually evaluated by the federal government against a peer-reviewed computer model to insure that all of the potential risks have been adequately identified and defined. DHS is providing guidance and assistance along the way, but it is also holding out the threat of fines and potential plant closures to enforce compliance.

Once those SVA’s have been completed then will come the harder task of developing and implementing effective site security plans. Again, those plans must be submitted to DHS for review and approval.

The process is not perfect and it can certainly stand revision and improvement. It was a procedure forged out of a political process of compromise and hard-headed realism. That is, after all, the American way of doing things. But, it is moving forward and every day we are becoming safer because of it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Terrorist CBRN Hazards

There is an interesting blog today by Armchairgeneralist about terrorist use of chemical, biological and radiological weapons. It is based on a captured document taken from a terrorist in Iraq. He makes the point that terrorist would use CBRN weapons as psychological weapons rather than how a military organization would use them. Specifically, he states that:

"…. we ought not be thinking of terrorist chemical and biological attacks in terms of military-scale CBW agents covering square miles. What terrorists are trying to do is use small amounts of industrial chemicals to cause panic, to shake the government's confidence and disrupt normal life."

While the document was related to the anti-American and anti-Iraqi war in Iraq, it is something that might apply as well to terrorist attacks in the United States. Our current effort to protect American chemical facilities from terrorist attack is designed to protect against the massive, military-sized chemical attack. The two previous successful Al Qaeda attacks (the bombing of the Trade Center parking garage and the later 9-11 attack) on the American homeland have been grand sized attacks. We have not seen an even partially successful attack since then.

If Al Qaeda is going to rely on the home-grown, self-directed attacks that we have seen recently in Europe, we might see the smaller scale chemical attacks that have been used in Iraq. They would have the added advantage that they would be missed by our current chemical security efforts. Does this mean that those efforts are misdirected?

Probably not; after all there have not been any reported deaths from the use of 100-lb chlorine bombs in Iraq. The detonation of a 40,000-lb chlorine railcar bomb in an American city would certainly kill people. The bulk of our efforts must remain focused on the military scaled attacks; the cost of potential failure is too high. But we must also realize that the terrorist scale attacks are more likely, if less effective.

Another comment related to Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule

Fred Millar posted a reply (see: "Blog Comment – Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule") in the on-going discussion about the Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule blog. He makes a couple of interesting points.

Designed Mainly to Preempt

That was almost certainly not the intent, though it certainly has that effect. This rule is required under the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. Section 1551(e) of that act requires that PHMSA "must require rail carriers of ‘security-sensitive materials’ to ‘select the safest and most secure route to be used in transporting’ those materials, based on the rail carrier's analysis of the safety and security risks on primary and alternate transportation routes over which the carrier has authority to operate" (page 20755 of the rule). This rule appears to be following that congressional mandate.

The problem is that PHMSA is requiring the railroads to use outmoded and inadequate technology to document their security reviews. The conduct and documentation of these analyses will be time consuming and resource intensive. Written documentation of the results makes it almost impossible for a regulatory agency to review and make a judgement on each of the routes used to transport these chemicals.

What PHMSA should be working on is a computer model to allow the documentation and submission of that analysis to PHMSA for automated review. The DHS Top Screen is an example of how that could have been accomplished. Of course the route safety and security analysis is a bit more complicated than what the Top Screen is designed to accomplish. This means that the design work will take a bit longer to accomplish.

If PHMSA is working on developing such a process, then the current rule makes a lot more sense. It would get the railroads working on the data collection portion of the problem while PHMSA is getting the computer system set up.

Secret from the Public

This is the underlying problem of security in a free society. An open society wants to have deliberations and decision making open for general scrutiny and debate. Security argues for secrecy and limited involvement. In this case, with the severity of the consequences of a successful terrorist attack on a railcar carrying one of the selected chemicals, I am afraid that I have to come down on the side of secrecy. The routes and the selection process have to be kept from public view.

The newly introduced Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008 has a loophole that allows society to catch the most egregious attempts to use that legitimate secrecy to circumvent the security process. They mandated the inclusion of "employee representatives" in the security process and added specific whistleblower protections. Their idea was that union representatives would not have the same level of desire to put money over security.

Adding such provisions to this rule would not catch all of the situations where money ruled over security, but it would catch the worst cases. The only thing that would work better would be for aggressive review by the oversight agency. We’ve already discussed that problem.

"I Don’t Think Anyone Has the Answer Yet"

The final quote in Fred Millar’s comment is the most appropriate. I agree with Broadman, I don’t think anyone has the answer yet. This rule is certainly not the final answer to the problem. It is barely a first step. It is one step of many that we will apparently be seeing this year. They come a little late, but fortunately not too late. We have not yet had a terrorist detonate a 40,000 pound chlorine bomb in one of our cities.

Chemical Incident Review – 4-21-08

Once again, since there have been no reported terrorist incidents at chemical facilities reported in the press, we will look at chemical accidents and incidents that have been reported. It has been a busy couple of weeks according to news reports, so we have lots to choose from. Remember, this is not being done to review safety, but rather to look at such incidents to see what they can teach us about security and mitigation.

Jasper Engines and Transmissions; Carefree, IN

On March 20th an explosion in a storage tank at the facility waste water treatment plant resulted in 26 people being treated at a local hospital and over 300 people being evacuated from the facility. A truck driver mistakenly unloaded ferric chloride into a sulfuric acid storage tank. The mistake was discovered in time to evacuate the waste treatment plant before the explosion.

Bulk unloading of chemicals into incorrect storage tanks can result in the mixing of incompatible chemicals. Explosions, toxic chemical releases, and fires are not unusual results. Allowing some one from off site to unload these chemicals without close supervision is asking for mistakes to happen. This is also a potential route for a terrorist attack.

A terrorist attack would not be limited to hooking up a tank wagon to an incorrect tank. It could include changing the paperwork on an incoming shipment to make it look like the correct chemical. This would be effective at facilities that do not allow truck drivers to unload their trucks.

The only effective way to avoid this problem is to test all incoming chemicals before they are moved into storage tanks. Even facilities without extensive lab capabilities can do a simple reaction test. A small sample of the incoming material is added to a sample of the material actually in the storage tank. The mixture is then observed for signs of a reaction. The truck is not unloaded until this test is passed.

Cargill; Booneville, AR

On March 23rd a fire started in this meat packing plant during some maintenance work on Sunday afternoon. A number of small explosions and the presence of a large anhydrous ammonia tank caused the firedepartment to pull their equipment back and allow the fire to burn. Ammonia leaking from the refrigeration system piping resulted in the evacuation of about 180 people, including residents of a nursing home and patients at a local hospital. The discovery of a second, un-vented ammonia tank on Monday resulted in new evacuations. No injuries were reported.

Concerns about storage tanks of gasses or volatile liquids exploding in a fire will keep fire fighters at a distance, preventing effective fire fighting. This is the reason that many facilities keep these storage tanks separated from the main facility and limiting flammable storage near these tanks. Tanks of chemicals like anhydrous ammonia are a special concern because emergency venting to relieve pressure will result in a toxic cloud being released.

The emergency response plan for the facility must address these problems. The local first responders have to be involved in the planning to ensure that they understand the true nature and extent of the problem. This may prevent them from needlessly allowing the facility to burn to the ground.

This facility was destroyed. The largest single employer in a small town is closed. Even though no one was hurt during the fire, the long term effects on the town are nearly as catastrophic as if there had been a large number of casualties.

Water Treatment Plant; Palm Beach, FL

A part of an on-site sodium hypochlorite production unit ‘exploded’ early in the morning of January 4th, sending plastic shards across the building and spilling a small quantity of bleach. It was not clear if the event was the result of burning hydrogen gas or simply an over-pressurization of the plastic cylinder. No one was injured.

The equipment was installed a number of years ago to replace a chlorine disinfection unit at the facility. While the unit was out of service after the incident, chlorine was used as a temporary replacement.

On-site production of bleach or chlorine has been advocated as a safer alternative to the use of delivered chlorine gas. Both systems use electricity and salt water to make their disinfection products. These systems typically produce a small amount of hydrogen gas that must be safely vented from the equipment. The article noted that the particular equipment used at this facility had reported problems with operators unnecessarily closing those vents.

Inherently Safer Technology is frequently more complicated technology than what it replaces. This needs to be taken into account during the planning and implementation process. Increased training for operators and management will be required. New risks and hazards will have to be learned and dealt with.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blog Comment – Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule

Fred Millar, a rail security consultant for Friends of the Earth, posted a comment on yesterday’s blog (see: "Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule"). He voiced his objections to the rule’s failure to require carriers to route hazmat shipments around major cities. He makes the point that this "rerouting policy leaves our cities vulnerable to attacks on trains carrying hazardous rail cargoes’.

He comments that this rule allows carriers to "unilaterally select dangerous routes through or around major cities for chemical railcars" while technically an exaggeration (the FRA and TSA are supposed to review the routing decisions), he is effectively correct. Neither the FRA nor the TSA inspectors will have enough time to effectively review multiple routing analysis documents during site visits; especially considering that there are 27 factors that should be included in each analysis.

To make this rule effective, the FRA and TSA would have to employ hundreds of new inspectors for their review to have any significant effect on carrier decision making. Or use ‘third party’ inspectors like those envisioned in the Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2008 (currently making its very slow way through Congress).

Fred has established a new Journal on AOL, ReRoute-Now, with a more detailed review of this issue as the inaugural entry. Since this is only peripherally a chemical facility security issue, I’ll make a more detailed reply to his comment on that site.

CSB Report on Hazardous Waste Site Fire and Explosions

Earlier this week the Chemical Safety Board issued their final report on the fire and explosions at a chemical waste treatment plant in Apex, NC in October, 2006. The description of the facility provided in the case study issued by the CSB does not indicate that there were any Chemicals of Interest on site at anywhere near an STQ amount. Thus the facility would probably not qualify as a high-risk chemical facility under CFATS regulations if it were operating today.

None the less, the fire and explosions at the facility resulted in the evacuation of "3,300 residences, the town hall, a fire station, and the town 911 center" (Case Study, page 2). Thirty people, including one firefighter and 12 police officers, were treated at local hospitals for respiratory issues according to the CSB web page. While the cause of the initial fire was not determined, there are no reports that it was terrorist related.

Again, lessons learned from a chemical accident can help us prepare for potential terrorist attacks at other facilities. Anyone that is responsible for emergency response planning for a high-risk chemical facility should read this CSB case study to learn what should not be done in preparing for a possible terrorist attack.

Fire Detection and Suppression

The fire was detected by a passerby after normal working hours. There were no company personnel at the site and there was no fire detection equipment on site. When the first fire fighters arrived on scene to investigate the reported fire they found a small ‘sofa-sized’ blaze. The only fire fighting equipment on site was some hand-held fire extinguishers. Before fire fighting equipment arrived on scene the fire spread rapidly, probably due to the presence of oxygen generators in the vicinity of the small fire.

Pre-Incident Familiarization of First Responders

When the fire spread to nearby drums of flammable and combustible liquids drums started to explode. The incident commander (the local fire chief) made the decision to pull the fire fighters back and allow the fire to burn-out. This was done because the fire department did not know what kinds and amounts of chemical waste were stored on site.

The high percentage of police officers in those seeking medical treatment is not unusual in this type of incident. Fire personnel are trained and equipped to deal with noxious gasses and smoke in the event of any kind of fire; they are normally equipped with self-contained breathing equipment. Police, on the other hand, are not usually trained to deal with hazardous gasses. Their protective equipment, if used, is better suited to dealing with riot control agents rather than industrial chemicals and toxic gasses.

Proper Prior Planning

With a little better advanced planning, this incident may never have resulted in a CSB investigation, much less such a scathing report. If there had been fire detection equipment on site the fire department would have arrived earlier and could have dealt with a much smaller fire. If there had been automated fire suppression equipment on hand, the fire department may never have had to deal with the fire at all.

If the fire department had known what was on site, where it was, and in what quantity, they would have arrived on site better prepared to deal with the situation. They would have had the appropriate fire fighting foam and would have been more comfortable in attacking the fire. If the fire had still gotten out of hand, the evacuated area would probably have been smaller and for a shorter period of time.

CSAT Pages Back Up

As I mentioned last week (see: "CSAT Outage Week of 3-14-08") there was a planned outage of the CSAT web site this week. As of about noon yesterday the site was still down. As of about 1:00 p.m. EDT today the CSAT registration page is back in operation. That is as far into CSAT as I have access, but I’m assuming the rest is also operational.

It must have just gotten back up since the notice that has been on the FAQ page about the ‘planned’ outage is still in place.

Appeal Procedures for Route Security Finding

As I noted earlier this week (see: "Two New Railroad Hazmat Security Rules") two new rules were published in the Federal Register dealing with the shipment of selected hazardous material by railroad. The first, an interim final rule, dealt with the selection of routes for those shipments. The second is a proposed rule, Enforcement, Appeal and Hearing Procedures for Rail Routing Decisions, that establishes procedures for the Federal Railroad Administration to follow when it determines that a carrier did not select the "safest and most secure practicable route" for the shipment of selected hazardous chemicals.

Neither of these two rules directly deals with security at chemical facilities; they deal with rail movement of hazardous chemicals. Since many high-risk chemical facilities will receive the selected hazardous chemicals via rail shipment, the implementation of these rules may impact those facilities. This means that a basic understanding of these rules may be important to personnel at chemical facilities.

Review of Rail Routing Decisions

In the interim final rule discussed in an earlier blog (see: "Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule") the PHMSA noted that they intended to "aggressively oversee railroads' route analyses and route selection determinations and will use all available tools to enforce compliance with the rule" (page 20756). If during that oversight it is determined that the analysis was in some way deficient or that the ‘safest most secure’ route was not selected, "the Associate Administrator (FRA) will issue a written notice of review (‘Notice’) to the railroad carrier" (page 20775).

The Notice will detail all of the deficiencies noted in the route analysis and may suggest remedies to correct those problems, including the use of an alternative route. For the next 30 days the FRA will work with the carrier to resolve the issues identified. If, at the end of the 30 day consultation period, the Associate Administrator is not satisfied with the actions taken by the carrier he will (pages 20775-6):

"(1) Consult with TSA and PHMSA regarding the safety and security of the route proposed by the railroad carrier and any alternative route(s) over which the carrier is authorized to operate that are being considered by the Associate Administrator. A written summary of the recommendations from TSA and PHMSA will be prepared;

"(2) Obtain the comments of the STB regarding whether the alternative route(s) under consideration by the Associate Administrator would be commercially practicable; and

"(3) After fully considering the input of TSA, PHMSA and STB, render a decision."

Issue a Second Written Notice

If the Associate Administrator concludes that the carrier’s route analysis is inadequate and "that safety and security considerations establish a significant preference for an alternative route, and that the alternative route is commercially practicable" (page 20776) then a second written notice will be issued. Within 20 days of the receipt of that second notice, the carrier will start using the designated alternative route.

Judicial Review

At this point the carrier only has two ways to get his hazmat trains back on the original route. The first is to take further actions to reduce the safety or security risks associated with the original route; this could be expensive. The second is to seek judicial review of the Associate Administrator’s directive. This is done by filing an appeal with "an appropriate United States court of appeals as provided in 49 U.S.C. 5127" (page 20776).

Effect on Chemical Facilities

There is nothing written in this proposed rule that calls for any action by chemical facilities. The rail carrier may, however, seek support and assistance from the shipping or receiving chemical facility to justify their original assessment. They may also request assistance in mitigating or eliminating safety or security risks associated with the shipments.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Railroad Hazmat Route Selection Rule

As I mentioned in an earlier blog (see: "Two New Railroad Hazmat Security Rules") the Department of Transportation has issued two new rules (actually an interim final rule and a proposed rule) dealing with security rail shipments of hazardous materials. Both of these rules are based on a Notice of Proposed Rule Making originally issued in 2004 (docket # PHMSA-RSPA-2004-18730) and have been modified based on comments received subsequently and by provisions of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (Pub. L. 110-53).

This is part of a series of rules and proposed rules on hazmat rail shipments that are finding their way into the Federal Register this year from agencies within both DOT and DHS. While these rules are not directly related to Chemical Facility Security, they will certainly have an effect on inbound and outbound shipments of certain hazardous chemicals. These effects may impact site security plans at some chemical facilities (see: "DOT Proposed Rule Touches on IST").

Hazmat Route Selection Rule

With that in mind we will look at the general provisions of the interim final rule published this week. This rule, Enhancing Rail Transportation Safety and Security for Hazardous Materials Shipments, deals with the procedures that railroads will use to select "safest and most secure practicable route" for the shipment of selected hazardous materials. The comment period on this rule ends on May 16th and it goes into effect on June 1, 2008.

The rule requires railroads to collect data on the shipment of selected hazardous materials. That data will include the number shipments made, the offerors and consignees, and the routes used to ship those chemicals. The railroads are then required to conduct safety and security assessments of those routes and potential alternative routes. That data will then be used by the railroads to select the safest routes and to develop security plans that address the vulnerabilities identified in the assessments.

Selected Hazardous Materials

The materials that fall under the provisions of this rule fall into three categories (pages 20757-8), which listed below. The rule covers all bulk shipments of these materials by rail as well as return shipments of empty containers containing ‘residues’ of the original material.

  • "Division 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 explosive materials,
  • "PIH materials, and
  • "Highway Route Controlled Quantity Radioactive Materials (HRCQ)."

The 9/11 Commission Act required DHS to develop a list of ‘security-sensitive materials’ for rail transportation. That list is expected to be published in the near future. Once that list is finalized, the PMHSA will review that list and determine what changes need to be made to list of materials that are covered by this rule.

Analyze for Safety and Security Risks

The railroad moving the selected hazardous material will be required to analyze each route and alternative route for safety and security risks. Appendix D to Part 172, 49 CFR, provides a list of 27 different factors that the railroad is required to consider in making this analysis. The railroad is required (page 20759) to

"… seek relevant information from state, local, and tribal officials, as appropriate, regarding security risks to high-consequence targets along or in proximity to a route used to transport security sensitive materials."

It is expected that State and local governments will be able to provide information about such factors as population density, environmental factors, and special venues or events along the routes. Local governments may also be able to assist "carriers in addressing any safety or security vulnerabilities identified along selected routes".

Selecting the Safest and Most Secure Practicable Route

Using the safety and security analyses the carrier will determine which practicable route is the safest and most secure. No route is expected to be without risk. The "route with the lowest overall safety and security risk should be selected and used" (page 20763). It may be that different routes are more safe or secure under varying circumstances. Those circumstances will be documented so that the appropriate route may be selected as those factors change.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) "will incorporate review and inspection of route analyses and selections into its inspection programs" (page 20756). Inspectors will review records of the route analysis and may make suggestions to improve that process. The FRA, ifit decides that an inappropriate route was selected, may require the carrier to change routes.

Federal Preemption

In recent years there has been a continuing controversy over whether or not states or local governments can restrict the movement of hazardous materials via railroads within their boundaries. This interim final rule specifically states that it "preempt(s) any non-Federal designation or restriction of routes for rail shipments of hazardous materials" (page 20767). It bases this preemption on sections 5101 and 20106 of 49 U.S.C.

Section 172.822 of 49 CFR has been revised to read:

"A law, order, or other directive of a state, political subdivision of a state, or an Indian tribe that designates, limits, or prohibits the use of a rail line (other than a rail line owned by a state, political subdivision of a state, or an Indian tribe) for the transportation of hazardous materials, including, but not limited to, the materials specified in Sec. 172.820(a), is preempted. 49 U.S.C. 5125, 20106."

Effect on Chemical Facilities

Carriers are required to minimize the time that hazmat shipments are held in shipment. To this end they are required, as part of their security plan, to establish a "procedure for consulting with offerors and consignees to minimize the time a material is stored incidental to movement" (page 20764). This may require an increase in the time that railcars are held at chemical facilities, either at the origination or termination of shipment. This may also create a new class of chemical facilities, facilities designed for the temporary, secure storage of hazmat railcars during shipment.

The interim final rule requires carriers "to increase the scope of the current safety inspection to include a security inspection of all rail cars carrying placarded loads of hazardous materials" (page 20766). All placarded railcars will be inspected from ‘ground level’ for signs of tampering or presence of suspicious items or "other signs that the security of the car may have been compromised, including the presence of an IED". The carrier may not move or accept for movement a railcar that fails such an inspection. This will certainly result in periodic delays in moving railcars off site.

Once again, this rule, the second in a series of rules concerning security and safety of shipping hazmat chemicals by rail, is not directly linked to chemical facility security. That is why I have not analyzed it in greater detail. But we will watch this and subsequent rules to try to discover their potential effects on security issues at high-risk chemical facilities.

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