Thursday, June 24, 2010

Greenpeace Inspections Continue

Greenpeace is continuing in their latest chemical security campaign where they ‘inspect’ the security at selected high-profile, high-risk chemical facilities. While they used their Greenpeace blimp on their DuPont inspections last month the Greenpeace blog reports that their inspection of the Kuehne Chemical plant in South Kearny, NJ was done on the ground. This facility was selected for its production and shipping of chlorine gas and its close proximity to New York City.

Both the Greenpeace blog and local news reports play up the apparent ‘under-reporting’ of the amount of chlorine that could be released in a ‘worst-case scenario’. This plays on the continuing controversy in the ever-changing estimates by BP of the worst-case flow rate from their damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a point that Greenpeace is adding to their justification for asking the government to require the use of IST processes where possible; chemical companies cannot be trusted to know or acknowledge the risk they forcing on local communities.

They point out that Kuehne Chemical reported that their worst-case release for this plant was a single 90-ton railcar when they could have up to 11 such cars on their site at one time. Of course the fact that EPA defines a worst-case as only being from a single vessel/container is completely ignored in the articles. An accidental release is what EPA is concerned about not the potentially larger catastrophic release caused by deliberate attacks.

Security Concern 

According to the one article, Greenpeace has reported their concerns about the “lax security” they found at the plant. The article quotes the Greenpeace letter as saying “Greenpeace was able to move freely around the perimeter of this plant in daylight without interruption or contact with any plant security or other security personnel”. A picture of one of the inspectors on the Greenpeace blog may provide an explanation for that hands-off security response. The picture shows one of the inspectors wearing a clearly marked Greenpeace t-shirt. I would not be surprised if security manager opted to avoid a possible confrontation by not contacting the Greenpeace representatives as long as they remained outside of the company security perimeter. There is, in fact, one school of security thought that calls for always avoiding personal interaction with apparent surveillance teams as long as they remain outside of the security perimeter.

I would like to think, however, that there was a security report made and that local procedures were followed for investigating the obvious surveillance of the facility. This could easily have been done via security cameras or even by the use of binoculars or telephoto lenses on hand held cameras. Information obtained would be forwarded to local police intelligence organizations, including possibly the local Joint Terrorism Task Force.

I really don’t like mentioning this because I grew up politically in the paranoid 60’s and 70’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t a file on this ‘investigation’ at the JTTF office. Hopefully, it would be nothing more than some photos from the facility security folks and a note saying “Greenpeace”. This would allow the quick identification of these folks at another facility as ‘harmless’ political activists requiring no security response. I would suspect, however, that the folder would contain considerably more information than that.

MTSA Facility 

The local news article makes a point of mentioning that this is a Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) covered facility which makes it exempt “from a temporary federal law regulating chemical facilities” (CFATS). The article goes on to say that Rick Hind, from Greenpeace, said that the MTSA rules were ‘less stringent’ than the CFATS rules.

I’m not sure that ‘less stringent’ is quite the correct term. The CFATS Risk Based Performance Standards cover more security concerns, but are unable to specify security measures. The Coast Guard rules for MTSA covered facilities are much more specific in what is required. Fortunately, ISCD and the Coast Guard are working together to try to define common security strategies that would fulfill the different legislative mandates for the two programs.

The two programs will never be completely the same because two different sets of Congressional Committees oversee the two programs. Until Congress resolves that issue these programs will continue to have different requirements.

New Legislation

The Greenpeace blog has slightly changed the Congressional outcome that they are supporting. Up until recently they have called for their supporters to get behind the HR 2868 bill that was passed in the House last November. Now they are calling for supporters to get behind “Senator Lautenberg’s bill” that has yet to be introduced.

The local news report notes that Sen. Lautenberg (D, NJ) “plans to introduce a Senate version of the bill within the next few weeks”. I have mentioned more than a couple of times that I don’t think that there is enough time to get HR 2868 through the system before the end of this session. Sen. Lautenberg’s much delayed legislation has even less chance of passage due to the continued delays in its introduction.

Continued Greenpeace Inspections 

The one thing that this latest Greenpeace chemical facility security inspection shows, though, is that Greenpeace has far from given up on getting a new CFATS authorization bill passed that includes a robust IST provision. Their continued use of this inspection technique at high-profile high-risk chemical facilities around the population centers along the East Coast is surely to be expected. It gives them good press play in the large urban centers and that will be noticed.

To be truly effective, however, they are going to have to take this technique on the road to areas where the local congressional delegation is not already favorably disposed to IST. I would not be surprised to see their Greenpeace Blimp show up on the gulf coast, harping on their message of equating BP’s apparent incompetence/malfeasance (take your pick) with inadequate chemical security. If they can make that stick on the Gulf Coast, they may have a chance in Congress.

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