Thursday, December 18, 2008

PHMSA HAZMAT Security Rule Comments – 12-15-08

While the comment period has been closed for a month on this rule, a number of new comments were posted to the web site this week. Of the seven comments received this week only two were from the special effects community, an industry association and a manufacturer. The commenters were: American Pyrotechnics Association Comments International Society of Explosives Engineers Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board Dangerous Goods Advisory Council Association of American Railroads National Propane Gas Association RES Specialty Pyrotechnics, Inc American Pyrotechnics Association Comments The APA considers pyrotechnics and fireworks to be low explosives and is of the opinion that they should not be considered ‘security sensitive hazardous materials’. They support the efforts of the special effects community in opposing the any quantity limit on Division 1.4, 4.1, and desensitized explosives. International Society of Explosives Engineers Comments The ISEE joins the Institute of Manufacturers of Explosives (IME) in opposing the change of the amounts of some explosive materials requiring security plans from a ‘placarded amount’ to ‘any amount’. They believe that the added security will have little effect since the small amounts would be of little use ‘for criminal purposes’ and would endanger the jobs of many people. Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board Comments The DOD ESB recommends that military explosives, Division 1.6, have an ‘any quantity’ limit for requiring a shipment security plan. Dangerous Goods Advisory Council Comments The DGAC recommends that the quantity of Division 1.4 explosives requiring a security plan not be reduced from the current ‘placarded amount’ to ‘any amount’. DGAC opposes the listing of all Division 2.2 with an oxidizing subrisk. They understand and accept the listing of oxygen but not compressed or liquefied air. DGAC opposes the listing of Division 4.2 and Class 3 desensitized explosives, Division 4.2 PG II, Division 4.3 PG II, Division 5.1 PG II, Organic Peroxide Type B, Division 6.1 PG I (except TIH), Division 6.2. DGAC opposes requiring security plans for small quantities of TIH liquids and gasses. DGAC believes that assessing the risks of specific routes is impracticable. DGAC questions the needs for all security assessments to be written and believes where they are written they should be in a separate document from the security plan. Association of American Railroads Comments The AAR requests clarification of the term ‘site-specific or location-specific security risks’. AAR would like to think that, at least for railroads, it would be the same as the ‘designated critical and high-risk assets and locations that present special or unique public security considerations’ that are currently included in the railroad security plans. The AAR requests that PHMSA includes provisions requiring shippers to notify carriers when a radionuclide threshold is met or exceeded. The AAR questions why anhydrous ammonia shipments are not included in the requirements of this rule. The AAR questions why employees that merely handle hazardous materials or their paperwork would require ‘in-depth training’. The AAR requests clarification of the requirement to re-do in-depth training when changes are made to the security plan, asking if it includes purely administrative changes that do not affect employee responsibilities. National Propane Gas Association Comments The NPGA does not believe that propane should be considered useable for making a weapon of mass destruction. They base that belief on studies done by DHS that point out the difficulties that someone would have in obtaining the proper mixed ratio of air and propane to make a fuel-air explosive. NPGA disagrees with the requirement for conducting a route specific risk assessment, noting that propane delivery drivers typically drive a different route every day, making such a risk assessment impractical. RES Specialty Pyrotechnics, Inc Comments RES Specialty Pyrotechnics is a manufacturer of the specialty pyrotechnic devices used by the special effects community. As with all of the other commentors from that community they object to the drastic lowering of the amount of Division 1.4 explosives that would require a shipment security plan. They note that the carriers that they use would refuse shipments rather than expend the time and money to meet the requirements of this rule. In effect, this rule would put this company out of business. My Comments on Comments Well, we have now heard from representatives from all parts of the special effects community, manufacturers, users, and an industry association. They all agree that shipments of Division 1.4 explosives shipped in quantities of less than 1,000 lbs (not requiring a placard on the shipping vehicle) should not require the preparation of a shipment security plan. They all agree that an ‘any amount’ limit would put almost the entire industry out-of-business. Hmmm, maybe PHMSA ought to take a second look at this. The comment from the DOD Explosives Safety Board is unusual for a couple of reasons. First it comes directly from the military board without all of the usual endorsements from higher headquarters. More importantly, it is not often that you hear a comment requesting stiffer requirements from some one other than a group of political activists. That this request for an increase in requirements comes from a technical organization with expertise in the particular subject matter under discussion should favorably catch the attention of the PHMSA. Long time readers of this blog will realize that I have had little use for the propane industry’s efforts to avoid security rules. Their discussion of the WMD effects of propane looks like another one of those situations, at least at first glance. I will have to agree with them that forming an optimum fuel-air explosive mixture in most building would be technically challenging. There are a number of high value targets where this would not be as much of a problem. What would make an optimum target would be a large building with large volumes of open areas; shopping malls, sports stadiums and the like come to mind. I can think of a couple of other uses that the military looked at in the 70s that would be equally effective. I could also design some smaller devices, but then again, I have always had a devious mind. Fuel-air explosives can be challenging, but the wide area of the overpressure effects will always make it a valuable tool for the more dedicated terrorist. Amateurs will likely just cause fires and an occasional impressive explosion, but the professional could make this into a very valuable weapon.

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