Wednesday, May 14, 2008

IST In New Jersey

New Jersey has the reputation for being the bad boy in the chemical security world, holding industry’s feet to the fire to insure the safety of the population around what is one of the largest concentrations of chemical manufacturing in the United States. Recent news shows that they are not as radical as they have been portrayed; new rules call for mandatory evaluation of IST by high-risk chemical facilities but do not require implementation.

Many had expected that the Corzine administration would require implementation of IST rather than just evaluation. The political reality is that the chemical industry is a 500 lb gorilla in New Jersey because of the 80,000+ jobs and large amount of money that it spends in the economy and in politics. You do not get to remain governor for more than 1 term if you shoot big holes in the profits of your state’s major industry.

Needless to say many environmental and union groups are upset that Corzine backed off of mandatory implementation. What these groups fail to understand is that IST is not a golden bullet that will cure all security and environmental ills. While it is effective in many cases it can also be as counterproductive as cutting off one’s head to cure acne; it works but it may kill the patient.

The one thing that everyone must remember in this debate is that chemical companies are in business to make money. They have a legal responsibility to their owners (a very large number of whom are also workers) to make money. Granted they have a responsibility to do it safely and legally, but if they cannot make money they will not stay in business.

Mandatory evaluation, if done properly, will lead many facilities to implement IST programs. The evaluations will show that those companies can save money by avoiding the costs of environmental and security controls. The company stockholders will then mandate implementation.

Information Note: In looking at the series of blogs and articles about this latest news I ran across an interesting document from the New Jersey hearings on the new IST rules. It is a listing of the various comments (and hearing officer responses) received at the hearings. I’ve only had a chance to quickly scan the document, but it surely shows the naivete of some of the people making presentations at the hearings.

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