Friday, August 5, 2011

Ammonium Nitrate Security Program NPRM – Purchaser Verification

On August 3rd DHS published their Ammonium Nitrate Security Program (ANSP) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). This blog post is part of a continuing series that looks at provisions of that NPRM. Previous posts in this series included:

The whole point of the Ammonium Nitrate Security Program is to ensure that AN is not transferred to someone with known or suspected ties to terrorism. The registration program starts this process, but the real success of the program depends upon the verification of the registration status of all purchasers of covered amounts of AN. This entails checking both that the registration is current and valid as well as checking the identity of the purchaser or agent of the purchaser.

Definition of ‘Transfer’

Generally speaking a transfer occurs when the physical possession or ownership of AN changes hands. This may be as a result of a sale or other business transaction, but that is not a requirement. Movements within a single AN facility are not covered; so material handlers within a facility are not required to be registered. Transfers between AN Facilities, regardless of ownership, would be regulated.

Application of AN to the soil does not constitute a transfer under this proposed rule. Thus, an applications service provider does not need to verify the registration status of the owner of the property where the AN is being applied. The preamble makes it clear that DHS does not “believe that ammonium nitrate fertilizer is likely to be misused in acts of terrorism after it has been applied to agricultural property” (76 FR 46925).

The NPRM proposes rules that would deal only with transfers within the United States. A facility that exports AN does not need to verify the registration of a person outside of the country. Similarly, verification would not be required for the importation of AN, but the transfer from the importer to another person or entity would require the verification process would be completed.

The physical transfer of AN typically requires the service of a transport operator. If that transport operator works for the originating facility they need to be registered as an AN Seller (see yesterday’s blog on Registration). A transport operator that works for a registered AN Purchaser is an AN Agent and does not need to be registered with and vetted by DHS. The AN Seller loading the AN Agents vehicle would need to verify that the operator is an agent of the purchaser and verify the operators identity. An independent transportation operator “would be regulated as both AN Purchasers and AN Sellers under the Department's proposed rule” (76 FR 46927)

Identity Verification

The AN Seller would be required to verify the identity of each AN Purchaser or AN Agent involved in the transfer. If the AN Purchaser does not use an agent to take possession, the AN Seller would be required to verify the identity by physically checking the photo ID of the AN Purchaser. The NPRM explains that the photo ID requirements would be similar to those required by 49 CFR 1560.3 for the Secure Flight Program. An AN Agent’s identity would be verified in the same manner. DHS will not be providing a photo ID as part of the AN registration process.

If a purchaser used an AN Agent to take physical possession of the AN, the AN Seller would be required to verify the AN Purchaser’s identify through DHS. Verification would be done via the electronic Purchaser Verification Portal or by phone via the Purchaser Verification Call Center. In either case the Purchaser would have to provide their name (as registered), photo ID number (as registered) and their AN Registered User Number. This obviously would require a purchaser to update their registration when their identity document (driver’s license for example) is changed/updated.

When an AN Agent takes possession of AN on behalf of an AN Purchaser, the AN Seller also has to verify that the person is acting as an AN Agent. An AN Purchaser can either verify this orally to the AN Seller prior to each transfer or register the name of the AN Agent with DHS as part of the Purchaser’s registration process. In the second case the Seller would have to confirm the AN Agent’s status via either of the two verification methods discussed above.  

Registration Verification

Every transfer would have to be proceeded by a verification of the AN Purchaser’s registration. The AN Seller would be responsible for ensuring that the purchaser is registered, and the registration is current. The AN Purchaser would provide their AN Registered User Number to the seller. That number would then be entered into the on-line DHS Purchaser Verification Portal or verified by phone through the Purchaser Verification Call Center. Confirmation via either of these two methods would meet the registration verification requirements of this proposed rule.

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