Monday, March 3, 2014

Chemical Safety and Security EO – 180 Days – Still No Public Movement

This is part of a continuing series of blog posts discussing President Obama’s executive order on “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security” (EO 13650). The other posts in the series are:

In my last post I looked at what progress had been made on the 90-day and 135-day requirements set forth in the EO. Nothing in that post from over a month ago has changed. We have also passed the next set of deadlines set forth in the EO, those that were to be completed by 180-days.

180 Day Objectives

There were only three requirements listed that were supposed to be completed by February 3rd ( or the 19th if you add the time lost in the Federal Funding Fiasco). They were:

The Working Group shall produce a proposal for a coordinated, flexible data-sharing process which can be utilized to track data submitted to agencies for federally regulated chemical facilities, including locations, chemicals, regulated entities, previous infractions, and other relevant information. 

The Working Group shall identify and recommend possible changes to streamline and otherwise improve data collection to meet the needs of the public and Federal, State, local, and tribal agencies (including those charged with protecting workers and the public), consistent with the Paperwork Reduction Act and other relevant authorities, including opportunities to lessen the reporting burden on regulated industries. 

The Working Group shall engage key stakeholders to discuss the risk management improvement options identified by the Working Group and other means to improve chemical risk management.

At this point I would have to say that there has been no public movement on any of these three objectives. I can make some educated guesses as to the non-public movement that we don’t see.

The Federal data sharing requirement has been worked on and there has been some progress made. We know this from the testimony of ISCD Director Wulf in the HR 4007 legislative hearing last week. It will be unlikely that we will ever hear the full details of the inter-agency information sharing outlined in this requirement. I understand that the information sharing between EPA (RMP) and DHS (CFATS) is the most advanced and both agencies have used the other’s data to identify facilities that were not registered in their own program. Those apparently delinquent facilities have been contacted.

The second data sharing requirement is a little bit more pro-active and maybe industry aiding. If the agencies can figure out a way to make a single data submission work for multiple programs it would certainly benefit small businesses. Unfortunately, the data requirements are so different outside a narrow set of facility identification information, that I don’t think that this will ever become an effective process. The President was really stretching on this one.

The last one really should not have been included in the original 180 day list. It comes from §6(a)(ii) and was to be completed within 90 days of the §6(a)(i) programs were identified. Sharp eyed readers will realize that this requirement is actually the §6(a) RFI that I had discussed in an earlier set of posts. There was a late start on getting the RFI published so there will be a delay in getting the ‘engagement’ completed. The end date for comments on that RFI is March 31st, 2014.

BTW: To date, 60 days into the 90 day comment period, there have only been three comments filed in response to the RFI. Okay, one of those comments was a ‘Mass Comment Campaign’ that included duplicate comments signed by four different people so it was actually six comments. None of those comments came from the ‘key stakeholders’ that the President wanted engaged. Maybe those comments will come later; towards the end of the comment period.

Final Objectives Yet to Come

The real meat and potatoes of the EO are to be completed by the 270 day point, May 4th, 2014 with no fudging for the FFF. Those will all require some sort of public response. They are:

Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group shall provide a status report to the President through the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

The Working Group shall create comprehensive and integrated standard operating procedures for a unified Federal approach for identifying and responding to risks in chemical facilities (including during pre-inspection, inspection execution, post-inspection, and post-accident investigation activities), incident reporting and response procedures, enforcement, and collection, storage, and use of facility information.

The Working Group shall develop a plan for implementing practical and effective improvements to chemical risk management.

It will be very interesting to see if these dates are met or if the agencies will ever be able to meet these very lofty objectives without congressional involvement.

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