Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Water System Lobbying

I ran into an interesting blog post at about efforts of member utilities of the American Water Works Association to oppose passage of legislation that could allow the imposition of changes in disinfectant chemicals on water treatment and waste water treatment facilities.

The AWWA has opposed bills like the House passed version of HR 2868 and the recently introduced S 3598. They are now calling for members to contact their Senators to ask them to support the version of HR 2868 ordered to be reported by the Senate Homeland Security Committee. This very long blog post provides an interesting and detailed discussion of how utilities, which have access to little money for lobbying efforts, can best conduct a campaign to influence their legislators. Anyone intending to conduct a low-cost campaign to influence legislation should review this blog post before they seriously start to plan their own campaign.

Chemical Security Situation 

Of more interest to readers of this blog is the background information on chemical security issues at water treatment facilities. There is a very good summary of the current requirements for security and the types of chemical security responses that many facilities have taken. Careful reading of this section of the blog shows why there really does need to be some sort of water treatment facility language in any comprehensive chemical security language that would extend current CFATS rules.

First the posting explains that current rules require these facilities to conduct a security vulnerability assessment (SVA) and emergency response planning (ERP). There is no standard for the SVA or ERP and there is no real requirement to establish and execute a security plan to protect the vulnerabilities identified. Finally there is no authority for state or federal regulators to review the SVA or ERP or allow them to require correction of deficiencies.

Like various chemical industry organizations the AWWA also likes to brag on the efforts that have been made at member facilities to protect chemicals like chlorine gas. The main difference here is that there is no mandatory security program that member facilities have to adhere to. All of the programs that the AWWA describes here are completely voluntary and this is reflected in the following statement made in the blog post: “Most [emphasis added] have restricted access and enacted other measures to secure critical assets, including chemical supplies.”

One last time I would like to point out that no outside agency has the authority to determine if the ‘restricted access’ and ‘other measures’ provides an adequate degree of security for the facilities that have taken such measures. And no government agency can require the facilities that have not take such measures to do so.

Remove CFATS Exemption 

If the AWWA really wants to preempt efforts in the Senate to require consideration, and a possible mandate to implement, disinfectant substitution they may want to consider finding some Senator to submit a proactive floor amendment to HR 2868 that would remove the current CFATS exemption for water treatment and waste water treatment facilities. If the AWWA were to craft such language to include provisions for denying the Secretary the authority to shut down water facilities and included a grant program for security measures at public treatment facilities, there would be little reason for water facilities to object to CFATS inclusion.

Facilities that have actually addressed security issues would get credit for those efforts in implementing CFATS SSP requirements. Only facilities that have done little to protect the public from the consequences of a potential terrorist attack would expect to have to take extensive actions to get up to CFATS standards.

The benefit to the AWWA and its members would be that they could then point at the CFATS coverage as a reasonable alternative to S 3598 and its included IST measures. While the activists that would like to see chlorine gas removed from all of these facilities would not accept that argument, it is likely that many Senators would accept the increased security provided by CFATS requirements as an adequate first step to protecting the adjacent communities.

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