Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ACC – Continue CFATS

Cal Dooley, President of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), continues the public opinion campaign for the reauthorization of the current CFATS regulations in an Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s Washington Times. This piece marks a move from their publicity campaign in the industry press to start directly addressing Congress and the new Administration in the Washington press. They still appear to be ignoring the grass roots oriented campaigns of IST supporters. Dooley notes that the ACC members have been improving their security posture since soon after 9-11 and well before CFATS authorization was passed. He points to the ‘stringent, mandatory security program’ that is part of the Responsible Care Program with its security vulnerability assessment, security enhancements and independent verification of implementation of security plans. He boasts of the $6 Billion dollars that the ACC members have spent on security improvements. Fully Implement CFATS The ACC President reports that his organization was a leader in the effort to get DHS the Congressional authorization to implement the current CFATS program. While acknowledging that the current authorization runs out in October, Mr. Dooley asks that Secretary Napolitano support a continuation of the current program to “give current security regulations a chance to work before revamping them further”. ACC Acknowledges IST The ACC has acknowledged that inherently safer technology (IST) is a tool that may reduce the risks associated with hazardous chemicals. Dooley notes that the risk-based performance standards embodied in CFATS “allow and encourage operators to consider a wide array of security measures from process changes to hardening their facilities” (emphasis added). ACC just doesn’t want IST, or any other specific security measure, mandated by the Federal rules. Holes in ACC Arguments Anyone reading this Op-Ed piece would think that the ACC represented the entire chemical industry. They do not. Only a small fraction of the 7,000 high-risk facilities covered under the current CFATS program are members of the ACC. While ACC members may have worked hard to improve their security posture since 9-11, the same cannot be said for all high-risk facilities. This is especially true of the many facilities that did not consider themselves chemical facilities before CFATS. Mr. Dooley points to the draft Risk-Based Performance Standard Guidance document that was published last fall as an exemplar of the CFATS security process. Besides overlooking the fact that the document was a draft for public comment, he claims that it provided “robust standards that spells out how operators can secure their facilities and meet the requirements of the regulation”. In fact, the document was excessively clear that the ‘guidance’ did not set standards; it even acknowledged that following the ‘letter’ of the guidance would not guarantee approval of the site security plan. The draft Guidance document is a poor exemplar of CFATS. Furthermore, Mr. Dooley sets up a straw man to be his opponent by claiming that “some have argued for scrapping the rules and starting over”. While there may be the odd individual crying in the wilderness for CFATS elimination, the extended public campaign initiated this fall by a wide variety of public interest groups specifically supported last session’s HR 5577 as their model for chemical facility security legislation. That legislation specifically accepted CFATS as the starting point for the relatively limited changes outlined for the program. Finally, Mr. Dooley ignores the large number of chemical facilities (many that store large quantities of highly hazardous chemicals) that were exempted from coverage under the current CFATS legislation. By overlooking the millions of people that are at risk from potential terrorist attacks on these facilities Mr. Dooley gives lie to the claim that the ACC members “have clearly demonstrated their commitment to safeguarding America's chemical facilities”. The American Chemistry Council does itself a severe disservice in using many patently flawed and misleading arguments in this presentation. Especially in a political document targeted at regulators and members of Congress, these arguments will carry little weight. It would be much better if the ACC were to address obvious industry concerns with involving regulators in process safety decisions they are ill equipped to make. A factual discussion of the issues would be much more effective.

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