Monday, June 28, 2010

Updating Appendix A

I have been hearing from a number of different sources that the folks at ISCD are working with a couple of different industry groups at looking at modifications to the list of DHS chemicals of interest found in Appendix A. This November it will be three years since the publication of that list so it is certainly time for adjustments to be made. No word on any specifics of those discussions, but I have some ideas about what may be under discussion and, of course, some ideas of what changes I would like to see made. Gasoline One thing that is certainly under discussion will be the issue of the coverage of gasoline storage terminals. Back in January DHS issued a request for comments on their attempts to regulate security at gasoline storage terminals. This was basically issued in response to a petition submitted by the International Liquid Terminals Association (ILTA) that “raised both technical and procedural issues related to the applicability of Appendix A and the Top-Screen requirement to” gasoline terminals (75 FR 2446). One of the major issues raised by industry was the fact that the DHS interpretation of the rules as applying to such terminals had never been expressly discussed in any rule making process, thus violating a number of rules for establishing regulations. So any rule updating Appendix A will certainly include addressing the gasoline issue. As I have mentioned on a number of occasions, I firmly believe that gasoline terminals should be regulated under CFATS. While gasoline vapor cloud explosions are not easy to affect, I think that the danger of a potential VCE is being down played by industry. An accidental VCE is a low frequency hazard because of the various factors that must come together for the VCE to occur. In a properly planned and executed terrorist attack every effort will be made to optimize conditions to provide the necessary prerequisites for a VCE. I also think that even if a terrorist attack fails to put those various conditions together to actually form a VCE and only causes a major terminal fire, that would be counted as a successful terrorist attack. Because of the special place that gasoline has in our economy, the destruction of a major gasoline terminal with the accompanying probable damage to a fuel pipeline would have serious economic effects. This is especially true in a weakened economy. Finally, serious consideration needs to be made about declaring gasoline a theft/diversion chemical of interest. A tanker load of gasoline is an easily transportable and deployable potential flame weapon. Either through a fire in the tanker on a crowded freeway during rush hours in a major urban area or pouring gasoline from a four inch hose into a large building like a major shopping mall could cause huge number of casualties at very soft targets. While the same could be said for any flammable liquid, gasoline has a special place because of the huge number of tankers on the road every day and the political connections to the Middle East. Al Qaeda has remarked on this political status and has vowed on a number of occasions to target gasoline manufacture and distribution. Removing COI or Increasing STQ I would hope that DHS would take a look at the data that they have accumulated on a huge number of Top Screens submitted over the last two and a half years. I would be very surprised if such a review did not find that there were some chemicals on the list of COI that did not result in facilities being declared high-risk chemicals. This could be caused by either relatively low inventory levels or isolation from civilian populations or other potential targets. If a chemical currently on the list is not associated with any high-risk facilities, it would seem that we could remove that chemical from the list. Without increasing the risk of potential terrorist attack, we could reduce the administrative burden on facilities submitting needless Top Screen. The same could be said for the setting of Screening Threshold Quantities (STQ). If all high-risk facilities for a particular COI have substantially more inventory than the current STQ, then DHS would be justified in increasing STQ for that COI; again reducing a needless administrative burden.

On the other hand if every facility (or even most of them) with just barely an STQ amount has been declared a high-risk facility, then DHS might want to consider lowering the STQ. If the risk for just an STQ is high enough to be of concern, then we are almost certainly not identifying all of the at-risk facilities. Methyl Bromide I have pointed out on a number of occasions that DHS relied on misleading information from the EPA when it specifically included methyl bromide from the list of release toxic COI. EPA assured DHS that methyl bromide was being phased out as use as a soil fumigant, but subsequent EPA actions reveal that the chemical will be around for some time. This combined with the political reasons that methyl bromide is supposed to be phased out could make this a specific target chemical for any number of different eco-terrorist groups. DHS needs to consider adding this to the list of COI. Feedback As I understand things, during this development process, DHS is working with a variety of industry groups on the revision of Appendix A. While some people get upset about this type of ‘special privilege’ being given to industry, I think that it is entirely proper that the people that will be most directly affected by these regulations have some input in their development. Let’s face it, the real probability of any given facility being attacked is quite small, but all of the high-risk facilities are being required to spend big money to prevent the low-probability occurrence activity. On the other hand, groups other than industry also have a stake in these regulations. The environmentalists will probably get more say in the development of the revision to Appendix A than they did the development of the original list, just give the political party in power. Unfortunately, that still leaves many groups under represented; including local emergency response planning groups and even first responders. I would like to open this up discussion here on this blog. I know that there are a number of DHS folks that read this blog, including someone in the Secretary’s office. Let’s see if we can get a good discussion about what types of changes should be made to the Appendix A list of COI, including changes in specific SQT amounts. For this discussion I would appreciate it if we left the ‘Anonymous’ identification alone. If you don’t want to give your name (and I know a number of good reason why that would happen) at least give a description of your background or affiliation (ie: “chemplant worker”, “local organizer”, “EMT”, or “security guard”). Remember, for most of us this will probably be your only chance for input until the NPRM for the change is published.

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