Monday, March 30, 2009

More from DHS Briefing at ChemSecure

Last Friday I posted some information that I had from a set of slides that had been used earlier in the week by DHS to brief attendees at the ACC conference, ChemSecure, in Houston, TX. Today I would like to take a look at the information provided in two slides from the same presentation. Both slides deal with ‘Program Issues’. DHS Personnel Issues The first bullet on this slide deals with DHS personnel issues. Readers of this blog will have already been familiar with most of this information. I talked about DHS personnel training in an earlier blog. A reader provided the same personnel numbers in a comment to that blog. Ammonium Nitrate Rules Not a lot of information on the slide for this bullet. DHS does let us know that there are about 700 ammonium nitrate related facilities that are covered by CFATS. It would probably be more if not for the indefinite Top Screen extension given to agricultural production facilities. The other bit of information provided is that DHS plans on using the same Personnel Surety Portal for AN registration that is being developed for CFATS; makes good sense. Ag Facility Top Screen Extension When the agriculture ‘extension’ was announced in December 2007 I always felt that DHS had just finally been beaten into the ground by the Ag Lobby. I think the entries under this bullet reflect some of the lingering resentment associated with that ‘defeat’. This is particularly evident (to me) in the comment that: “Voluntary engagement to learn more about end user community did not yield results anticipated”. The slide does note that DHS has developed “supplemental Ag-focused questions targeted at distributor community”. DHS plans to use the §27.200(b)(1) authority to require distributors to re-submit a Top Screen with the added ‘Ag-focused questions’. DHS can then use the data received from those Top Screens to evaluate potential approaches to bring an end to the ‘extension’. One technique under consideration appears to be setting a separate STQ for agricultural facilities (presumably with a higher minimum quantity). It will be interesting if they go back and modify the propane STQ at the same time. The 60,000 lbs (10,000 lb container minimum) was selected mainly to appease the agricultural community. If DHS establishes agricultural STQ’s they could return the standard propane STQ to the 10,000 lbs used for all other flammable release COI and keep the 60,000 lbs STQ for agricultural facilities. Gasoline Storage Facilities The fuel distribution industry has been very upset with DHS over the attempt to classify their tank farms as ‘chemical facilities’. They point to the EPA exemption from RMP rules for those facilities as justification for their potential exemption from CFATS. The fact that the RMP exemption was a politically driven exemption rather than a scientifically derived exemption is lost in the discussion. The DHS slide emphasizes the distinction between RMP (safety) and CFATS (terrorist targets). It also notes that only 13% of the fuel storage facilities that submitted Top Screens were designated as high-risk facilities with most being preliminarily tiered in Tier 3 and Tier 4. This compares to the almost 24% of all facilities submitting Top Screens. In the DHS review of the Top Screen results it seemed that the questions returned too high a risk rating for the fuel storage facilities. DHS went back and re-worked the fuel storage questions and re-published the Top Screen last fall. About 85% of the original 450 high-risk fuel storage facilities have re-submitted the Top Screen. Nothing in the briefing slide indicates how their rating or ranking changed. Harmonization with Coast Guard and TSA The Office of Infrastructure Compliance is not the only DHS agency that regulates chemical security. Both the Coast Guard and TSA have irons in that fire. Chemical facilities that abut on navigable waterways and ports fall under the Coast Guards domain under the MTSA regulations. Hazmat receivers located in HTUA that receive railcar loads of rail security sensitive material (RSSM) and all hazmat shippers that ship RSSM by rail fall under the TSA freight rail security rules. Tying those rules into a seamless bureaucratic cloth is a major ‘harmonization’ challenge. According to the DHS presentation slide OIC and the Coast Guard are working to define which facilities fall completely under MTSA (which are exempt from CFATS) and which fall only partially under MTSA. The non-MTSA covered portions of those facilities would fall under CFATS. Those dual regulated facilities will be a major challenge; both for the regulators and the facility personnel. The main issue with TSA will be the ‘Rail Secure Areas’ in which covered shippers and receivers are required to hold their RSSM loaded railcars. TSA and OIC are trying to develop a common operational definition of such areas so that a single performance standard can be applied. Outliers The last bulleted point on the second Program Issues slide is labeled “Identification of Outliers’. The items listed under this bullet are brief and cryptic. I’ll take my best shot at discussing them, but my take on them may bear no relation to what the DHS presenter covered. ‘Pilot with NY and NJ’. I have heard rumors of a pilot program where DHS inspectors were going back and trying to track down facilities that should have filed Top Screens, but did not. If there has been any such effort I would expect it to be put on hold while the SSP issues are worked. ‘Follow-up on Water Treatment Facility Exemption’. I would have thought that this was a congressional issue. ‘EPA RMP list under review’. DHS has never publicly addressed the issue of changes to Appendix A. One thing that would certainly lead to a possible change is the inclusion of new chemicals on (or removing old chemicals from) the RMP list since that list was one of the starting points for Appendix A. ‘Tip Line’. I can only assume that this is a reference to the FAQ question on the Chemical Security site that describes a mechanism for providing chemical security tips directly to TSA. I called it a Whistleblower line in an earlier blog. Well, that about covers the slides that I have. Again, by the looks of the slides I missed a pretty decent presentation, especially since DHS couldn’t discuss what everyone came to hear about. Anyone that actually saw the presentation, please leave some comments about how it looked live.

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