Friday, March 5, 2010

Reader Comment 03-04-10 Hearing Analysis

Anonymous posted a lengthy personal analysis of this weeks CFATS hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee appended to my blog on the same subject. It is too lengthy to repeat en toto here, but it is well worth reading because it appears to be objectively written by someone without a hard set personal agenda. A couple of specific points are well worth discussing here. IST Definition Anonymous responds to Sen. Collins’ comment about the lack of a consensus definition of IST by writing:
“Inherently safer technology seems pretty clear to me, and I do not have to be an expert to read the words “inherently safer” to mean something that is safer to do than a current technology for the handling and use of chemicals, processes, or certain monitoring systems. I take the implication of IST as just to mean something that may be safer.”
I’m beginning to think that the IST terminology was perhaps an unfortunate choice for describing the analysis of the use of a hazardous chemical with a view towards reducing the consequences of a potential successful terrorist attack on a chemical facility. The ‘IST’ reference has a slightly different meaning to chemical engineering professionals in the chemical safety context than what is commonly being used in these chemical security discussions. I am beginning to see the wisdom of the use of the term ‘methods to reduce the consequence of a terrorist attack’ used in the HR 2868. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a nice compact acronym. Perhaps we need a catchy, new term to which we can attach a clear chemical-security meaning that doesn’t carry any other definitional baggage. How about something like Reduced Terrorist Attack Consequence (RTAC)? DHS Implementation Anonymous made some very important points about the fact that DHS will have to write regulations that implement anything that Congress writes into law. Special importance was attached to comments by Undersecretary Beers about potential implementation; writing that:
“But he clearly stated that the mandate would be similar to the mandate that is currently being enforced with the RBPS structure and that DHS wants to work with industries affected rather than broadly mandating specific changes for any one industry to make.”
Congressional legislation provides the framework upon which the Federal bureaucracy builds their regulations. It is those regulations that citizens and company’s use to guide their activities. Legislation needs to be written with enough lack of specificity to allow regulators to craft regulations that are workable for affected community while achieving the political ends directed by Congress. Any discussion of legislation needs to take into account how the regulators will deal with the legislation. This is one of the benefits of not having the people who actually write regulations being political appointees. As administrations change the tone and feel of regulations will have a certain level of continuity. This is also why political deal making can be successful. Legislators acquiescing to politically unpleasant requirements do this knowing full well that those requirements will be moderated by the process of the development of regulations.

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