Friday, January 2, 2009

More Chemical Industry Comments on CFATS Modifications

Another chemical industry organization has joined the political discussion about the future of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). This last Monday there was an article on ICIS.Com about comments made by the President of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), Charles T Drevna. NPRA Against Mandatory IST Again the comments were on the general upcoming chemical legislative agenda of the 111th Congress, but Mr. Drevna did specifically address CFATS. He noted that “legislative efforts will be undertaken in 2009 to amend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) programme to allow government officials to dictate to facilities which security measures they must employ”. He makes clear that ‘security measure’ that they are discussing is IST. He reminds the law makers that while “inherently safer technology (IST) will be one of the cornerstone security debates in the 111th Congress, lawmakers must recognise that IST is a chemical engineering philosophy - a concept, not a technique”. He warns lawmakers that changes “to the existing CFATS will likely slow down current government efforts to ensure the security of chemical facilities”. This point carried more weight last year while DHS was rolling out the SVA program, but it has lost most of its import because of the slow pace of getting the CFATS program into place. There is a distinct possibility that CFATS legislation may make it to the floor in the House before the first facility is required to submit its Site Security Plan. Industry Missing the Political Game It is interesting to see that the industry comments that I have been looking at for the last week or so have all been directed at the industry press rather than the public at large. Industry seems to be unconcerned that the advocacy groups calling for mandatory IST are taking their campaign to the public. Just Wednesday there was another article in the public press about the CAP Chemical Security 101 report. The timing was interesting because it was looking at the identification of the Exxon Joilett refinery as one of the ‘101 most dangerous facilities’ because of its use of hydrogen fluoride in the alkylation unit. Exxon, according to the news report, “refused to say whether they are considering an alternative approach to refining”. Industry needs to be proactive in addressing the IST issue at each facility where the issue is raised in the public press. If there are legitimate reasons why the facility cannot implement the alternative technology identified in the CAP report, those reasons need to be briefly explained to local reporters. It need not be a chemical engineering explanation; the CAP report only hit the generalities. But failing to address the IST issue straight on will ensure that the generalities in the CAP report will guide the formation of the IST rules in the next chemical facility security law.

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