Monday, February 2, 2009

Comments on Ammonium Nitrate ANPRM – 01-30-09

The comment period has been closed for over a month on the Ammonium Nitrate ANPRM, but it looks like the comments are continuing to roll in. The four comments reviewed in this posting bring the total to 38 submissions. Those comments came from: Southern States Cooperative Nebraska Agri-Business Association Larry Ostby Honeywell International Southern States Cooperative Comments SSC is a producer of urea based fertilizers that are a potential substitute for ammonium nitrate based fertilizers. They believe that handlers of ammonium nitrate should be required to obtain an identification card based on the TWIC model. They specifically note in their comment that agents picking up ammonium nitrate should be required to obtain their own identification card. Nebraska Agri-Business Association Comments The NA-BA would like to see registration for sellers of AN be business level registration rather than individual employees and recommends that that registration be transferable when the business is sold. They recommend that the program be administered through the State Departments of Agriculture because they already are administering the US EPA fertilizer programs. The NA-BA expressed their extreme concern about the current sales of AN on EBay and other internet based sites and believes that DHS should shut down such sales immediately. The NA-BA believes that the blank application documents should be controlled to prevent terrorist from getting hold of them; they recommend that such applications not be made available through the Post Office. Larry Ostby Comments Mr. Ostby is a farmer that uses AN fertilizer. He expresses his concern that any regulatory process considered would be time consuming and impair his ability to make timely purchases of AN. He notes that distributors of AN fertilizer have long standing relationships with their customers and believes that this provides adequate protection against terrorist acquisition of AN. Honeywell International Comments Honeywell would like to see any AN product that has been certified as a Qualified Anti-Terrorist Technology (QATT) by DHS exempted from the requirements of this proposed rule. They note that their Sulf-N® 26 fertilizer has been so certified under the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act of 2002. My Comments on Comments The corporate comments were all dated before the deadline for filing comments. There is no telling when they were actually received by DHS, but all four comments were just posted to the site on Thursday. Hopefully, they were actually received in time for their comments to be included in the review that leads up to the writing of the draft regulations. It is interesting to note that two of the commentors reviewed here have a commercial stake in the detailed, complex regulation of explosive AN fertilizer. Their comments make perfectly clear that they stand to gain from their sales of alternative fertilizers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, in fact DHS specifically solicited comments about alternatives to AN. The IST proponents in the audience would certainly point out the best way to stop AN from getting into the hands of terrorists would be to stop manufacturing/selling the material. Both commentors are to be commended for making their commercial interest clear in their submission. The comments filed by Mr. Ostby are certainly pertinent to the DHS regulatory effort. Any regulations that impede the timely sale and delivery of AN to legitimate users of the material would be contrary to the Congressional intent of the regulations. Other than the time needed to complete the registration process, there is no need for these regulations to affect the timely sale and delivery. DHS does need to insure that there is an adequate outreach program to farmers and that the registration process be opened well before the start of the season for application of these fertilizers. The comment about the internet sales of AN is probably overblown. AN is certainly available for sale over the internet. Those sales would be covered by the proposed regulations as long as the seller was located in the US. DHS should probably look at how they will regulate cross border sales of AN, but that is an issue for the Customs and Border Protection folks. Enforcement of internet sales may be a tad bit tricky, but that is a general problem for the enforcement community at large. The government is going to have to develop methods of tracking the internet sales of a large number of regulatorily controlled materials; AN will be only a small part of that effort.

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