Monday, April 19, 2010

Top Screen Problems

I received an interesting email from a reader last week. It contained a copy of a proposal from the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association for some revisions to the Top Screen submission requirements. I’m going to be doing some additional research (I want to see what DHS has to say about it) on this proposal before I discuss it in detail, but I do think that it raises some issues that are worth discussing. The NPRA proposal notes that the current rules for Top Screen Submissions are based on the presence of a DHS chemical of interest (COI) at or above a screening threshold quantity (STQ) and re-submissions are required whenever there is a ‘significant change’ in that inventory. This works well for identifying potential security issues associated with relatively static inventory situations. The proposal notes, however, that there are a number of situations where there are short term changes in inventories that, while significant for short periods of time, do not really change the long term security posture of the facility. One Time Inventory Having worked at a specialty chemical manufacturing plant for a number of years, I have worked on a number of projects where we would produce a unique product for just a limited production run with a number of raw materials being introduced into the facility for just that product, never to be used or inventoried again. At least a couple of these materials would have triggered a Top Screen submission even though they would not have been on the inventory at the end of the 60-day time limit for the Top Screen submission. This situation has two relatively simple solutions. The first would be a slight re-wording of the rules for submitting a Top Screen, eliminating the need for a submission for a one-time inventory of a COI. The second would be the addition of question to the Top Screen that would allow the facility to identify the expected frequency that this chemical would be held in inventory at the facility. It would seem to me that the first solution would be more appropriate for initial Top Screen submissions. DHS would probably not want to be bothered with facilities that had no other COI and whose potential security situation would end before they had a chance to evaluate the Top Screen. For already covered facilities, however, the second option would probably be more appropriate as DHS would be interested in temporary changes in the security situations of those facilities. Recurring Short Term Inventory A more interesting situation arises when there are recurring inventories of COI, or intermittent COI (iCOI), that would trigger a Top Screen. The facility at which I worked had a number of products that were only produced intermittently and one or more of the raw materials were brought in to the facility only in the volume required for a limited production run. These production runs could be done as infrequently as once per year. In fact, there was one product that we expected to manufacture only once every five to ten years. Under the current rules a facility would be required to report these infrequently used COI within 60 days of use. Then they could re-submit a Top Screen without this material as soon as the material had been out of their facility for over 60 days. If this was the only COI being reported, presumably DHS would drop them off of the covered facility list when the second Top Screen was received. If the facility was determined to be a covered facility for other COI the issue would potentially be complicated by the place they were in their CFATS process. If the material had been included in their post-SVA notification letter, DHS would probably be reluctant to simply remove the material from coverage. Pre-SVA submission, the facility could probably convince DHS to remove the material from their list of covered chemicals. How to Deal with Intermittent COI at Covered Facilities A more rational method of dealing with these iCOI that a facility knows will be on site periodically would to be to provide a method for identifying this fact and allow for the submission of a contingency security plan for those periods. For facilities with other COI on site that contingency plan could be part of their SSP submission. These additional security procedures would be important since typically these temporary chemicals would be stored in ‘portable’ storage containers. For large scale use those containers could be tank wagons and even railcars. These portable storage tanks would require special protections because they would fall outside of the protections (permanent restricted areas, access control measures, intrusion detection and surveillance to name a few) normally afforded to fixed storage tanks. Even smaller portable containers, like drums and totebins, might require special security measures if the warehouse is not normally set up as a secure area. The additional security measure procedure would be put into effect when the decision is made to begin a manufacturing campaign using these iCOI. One part of that procedure would be a verification of the business inputs that require the production run to be made. Other measures that might be taken before the iCOI arrives at the site would be to increase the normal security personnel contingent, do maintenance checks of the special security equipment used for this material, and to review the special security procedures with affected personnel. One additional area that DHS would need to address in their rules covering iCOI would be residual inventory. It is not unusual for some inventory of these iCOI to remain on site at the end of a manufacturing campaign. If more than an STQ amount remains on site for significant periods after the campaign (typically until the next campaign if the excess inventory is not immediately returned to the manufacturer), DHS will have to delineate when that storage no longer falls under the temporary security plan and when modifications will need to be made to the overall plan to reflect the presence of that COI. The issue of how to deal with residual inventory is much less clear cut if the amount falls below the STQ amount. While the STQ is a specific measure, it is not clear that a difference in a couple of pounds of residual inventory makes a significant difference in the security requirements. Clearly some line in the sand must be established, but I would argue that the amount for residual inventory where the iCOI is expected to return in more than STQ amounts in the foreseeable future should be lower than the typical STQ. Where the residual inventory STQ should be set should be thoroughly discussed. Intermittent COI at Other Facilities For facilities without other COI, DHS could determine if, during the presence of those iCOI, the facility would be a covered facility using the normal Top Screen evaluation process. If a preliminary finding of being a high-risk facility during the presence of the iCOI were made, the facility would be required to go through the SVA/SSP process even after the 60 day period without COI inventory has elapsed. For these intermittently covered facilities, it might be beneficial if DHS were to establish a two tiered evaluation; one reflecting the security risk when the iCOI was present, and another lower tier ranking when it was not present. This might require the formation of a Tier 5 facility ranking for facilities that have no other chemical security risks. This would require a minimal, Tier 5, security plan when the iCOI was not present at the facility. This would require such things as background checks for facility personnel, security plan training and drills, and a maintenance plan for security equipment required when the iCOI was present. This is just a first look at how to deal with CFATS regulations at facilities where COI are only present on an intermittent basis. I’m sure I can think of more things that would need to be addressed. More importantly, I think the readers of this blog would also be a valuable source of insight. Please let me know what you think about this iCOI problem.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */