Monday, January 6, 2014

EO 13650 §6(a) RFI – CFATS Improvements

This is another in a series of posts addressing the recent request for information (RFI) from the EO 13650 Working Group. That RFI addressed requirements in §6(a) of the Improving Chemical Safety and Security Executive Order (EO 13650) for the Working Group to “develop options for improved chemical facility safety and security that identify improvements to existing risk management practices through agency programs, private sector initiatives, Government guidance, outreach, standards, and regulations”. Earlier posts in the series include:

Chemical Security Accomplishments

One of the valuable parts of the RFI document is the brief explanation of how many of the affected programs have improved chemical safety and/or security. The NPPD (National Protection and Programs Directorate of DHS) section briefly addresses the impact of CFATS program and the potential impact of the Ammonium Nitrate Security Program that is still pending the publication of a final rule.

NPPD notes that the CFATS program (pg 6) “is making the nation more secure by requiring high-risk chemical facilities to develop and implement security plans that meet eighteen risk-based performance standards established by DHS”. It also reports that as a result of the CFATS program “more than 3,000 facilities have voluntarily removed or reduced the onsite quantity of chemicals of interest to the point that the facilities are no longer considered high-risk”. It then claims that ammonium nitrate program will “ensure continued access by the public to ammonium nitrate for legitimate purposes, and to improve the security of ammonium nitrate with minimal economic impacts”.

Potential Areas of Improvement

In accordance with the requirements of the EO NPPD has identified a number of potential areas for improvement in both the CFATS program and the Ammonium Nitrate Security program. They include (pgs 6-7):

• Options to improve the secure storage, handling, and sale of ammonium nitrate;
• Potential updates to the CFATS chemicals of interest list and the screening threshold quantities of certain substances contained on that list;
• Options for improving the coverage of reactive substances and reactivity hazards;
• Options for addressing security of chemicals at agricultural production facilities;
• Opportunities to leverage industry best practices in chemical facility security;
• Methods for identifying economically and mission critical chemical facilities;
• Opportunities to harmonize facility security standards across different programs; and
• Approaches to identifying potential high-risk chemical facilities that have not yet complied with their initial CFATS obligations.

Two things are conspicuously absent from this list; cybersecurity (particularly control system security) for high-risk chemical facilities and implementation of a personnel surety program in CFATS. At a minimum NPPD should formally adopt the Cybersecurity Framework (as imperfect as it is) as its guidance for the implementation of cybersecurity best practices for CFATS covered facilities. And the publication of a final version of the proposed Personnel Surety Program would go a long way to making the current CFATS site security plans complete.

Some Suggestions

Ammonium Nitrate – The single most important thing that NPPD can do to increase the security of ammonium nitrate is to publish a final rule for the Ammonium Nitrate Security program. This will provide for tracking and vetting of personnel that handle and transport ammonium nitrate at the retail level.

COI List – Readers of this blog will not be surprised by these recommendations. First add methyl bromide to the list as a toxic release chemical. Second reduce the screening threshold quantity for propane to 10,000 lbs like all other flammable release chemicals. Finally, treat gasoline like all other flammable release chemicals, but provide a retail sales exemption for most security requirements. NPPD should also add provisions for public petition for the addition or subtraction of items from this list.

Reactive Chemicals – Acknowledge that while reactive chemical hazards have the potential for off-site consequences, most will not be realistically useable as a terrorist weapon. Thus, security beyond the most basic industrial security is not required from a homeland security perspective.

Agricultural Chemicals – ISCD should rescind the current agricultural Top Screen reporting exemption. In evaluating these Top Screens we should acknowledge that DHS can be trusted to understand that isolation is the most basic security for release security issue chemicals at most of  these facilities, placing them much lower on the risk threshold and probably not under coverage of CFATS. The only chemicals of real concern at these facilities would be theft/diversion COI because of the relative lack of security measures at most agricultural production facilities. The Department of Agriculture should come up with basic security guidelines for DHS to use for these facilities.

Best Practices – NPPD should update their Risk-Based Performance Standards guidance document to include listings of best practices as culled from the site security plans that I has reviewed to date.

Public Comments

This is a reminder that the whole purpose of this RFI is to get public feedback on these proposed ideas. The RFI requests the public to respond to these specific proposals for areas of improvement. That response should address the following (pg 9):

• Examples of where implementation of the same or similar options has been successful;
• Information or data that would characterize the positive impacts the options might have, including additional benefits;
• Potential limitations or unintended consequences of the options described;
• Methods for implementing the options, including methods for potentially increasing benefits or reducing costs; or
• Alternatives to the options that could achieve substantially the same result.

Comments need to be submitted by March 31st, 2014. They may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (; Docket #OSHA-2013-0026). Unfortunately, as of 6:00 am CST today that docket has not yet been established. I suspect that it won’t go live until this RFI is published in the Federal Register sometime later this week.

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