Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Houston Explosive Precursor Meeting – 06-04-19

The DHS (CISA) Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) held the third of their Explosive Precursor Chemical Stakeholder Engagement Meetings yesterday in Houston. Two more to go in Indianapolis and Chicago.

I have not been (and unfortunately will not be) able to attend any of the meetings and they are not being web cast. But a long time reader, Cathi Cross, was able to attend today and was able to share some observations about the meeting. Here is what she saw {NOTE: Comments in brackets are my additions; they are not Cathi’s fault (grin)}:

In addition to DHS personnel, the 16 attendees were a mix of industry representatives, trade association representatives, academia, and the general public.

DHS clarified the series of scheduled meeting’s intended purpose is to focus on point of sale risk mitigation for certain precursors identified in the 2017 National Academy of Sciences Study [link to my blog post added], conducted for this purpose. DHS is seeking public comments on the report [link to NAS report web site added] .

DHS clarified that the discussion would intentionally deviate from CFATS regulation or the facilities regulated under its jurisdiction - and focus on mitigating risk at the point of sale [NOTE: ‘point of sale’ potentially includes all venues where precursor chemicals are sold] within the supply chain.

DHS began by reviewing the NAS report, at a high level. Key points: select precursor chemicals used to manufacture homemade explosives (and the prioritization method used by NAS), domestic chemical supply chains, and international regulations, possible control strategies, and the report’s six recommendations.

The Office of Bombing Prevention representative reminded participants of the available resources from their Bomb Making Materials Awareness Program (BMAP). Some of which have been made available on the website for the Center for Domestic Preparedness.

Next, DHS facilitated open discussion on explosive precursor chemicals, the supply chain, and point-of-sale. Topics included chemical prioritization, potential voluntary programs (including industry stewardship programs), potential regulatory programs, additional as of yet-unidentified high-risk points in the supply chain, concerns regarding commerce encumbrances, citizen awareness & worker training ideas, and brainstorming mitigation strategies.

Three specific concerns/ideas raised during the open discussion seemed to resonate with the attendees:

1. Initiator chemicals were removed from the scope of the NAS report. Reconsidering initiator chemicals and limiting the scope of this initiative to only those - may optimize administrative controls to a much smaller footprint while achieving significant risk reduction.
2. All point-of-sale transactions involve a financial transaction. Consult the financial sector for ways to identify, and eventually screen purchases through the financial transactions at point of sale.
3. The recommendation was made that the agency review comments previously submitted for the ANPRM on AN (October 29, 2008) because many of the comments may prove very valuable beyond the scope of that rulemaking, in development of a broader precursor program. [I did a series of blog posts on those comments here, here, here, here, here, here, and here]


Back to my voice again.

As Cathi noted any precursor chemical security program is not going to be part of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. I have heard this emphatically from folks in and around the program. David Wulf is heading up this effort at CISA because the Ammonium Nitrate Security Program rulemaking was put under ISCD purview and this is an outgrowth of the ANSP.

Again, to be absolutely clear; this is not yet a rulemaking proposal. Congress has provided a mandate for establishing an ANSP, NOT an explosive precursor program. Before ISCD can even begin to start the rulemaking process, Congress is going to have to provide a new/revised authorization. DHS knows that there is a problem with tracking the sale of precursor chemicals, but they are not yet prepared to ask Congress for new/revised authorization to establish such a program. The whole point of these meeting is to gather as much input from the affected (potentially regulated) communities about what might and might not work.

There are two more meetings in the coming weeks;

Indianapolis, IN                     June 11th, 2019
Chicago, IL                            June 13th, 2019

Personnel wishing more information about attending the meetings should contact ISCD ( [AGAIN this does not mean that this is being added to the CFATS program, it is just a readily available email address that is already being staffed and worked]. If you are working with and/or more importantly selling one of the precursor chemicals identified in the NAS report, you really might want to consider attending one of these two meetings. You might be able to help educate one of your potential regulators.

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