Thursday, September 30, 2021

Critical Economic Assets and CFATS – Part 3

This is part of an on-going series of posts looking at the potential for an expansion of the effort of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program to cover facilities that produce critical economic asset chemicals. The current CFATS regulations specifically allow CISA to declare a facility to be a high-risk facility covered by the CFATS program if they are a producer of critical economic asset chemicals.

The first post in the series looked at the historic background of this type coverage in the CFATS program and how DHS tried to look at the process.

The second post in the series looked at how CISA might go about identifying potential chemicals of economic interest (CEI) for the water treatment sector.

CEI List

With the list of critical water treatment chemicals provided by the request for information (RFI) mentioned in the previous post in the series, CISA would develop a list of CEI. The first step in that list development process would be the removal of any chemicals that were already on the DHS list of chemicals of interest in Appendix A to 6 CFR; chlorine comes immediately to mind.

Next, CISA would identify the minimum concentration for each of the chemicals on the list. Since these treatment facilities would be using commercial grades of material, CISA should have little problem in identifying the minimum concentration. In fact, I suspect that for many of the chemicals on the list, there will be just one or two concentrations that are used by the water treatment industry. Where this is obvious from the data provided in the RFI, CISA might find it useful to define chemicals with both minimum and maximum concentrations. For example, while caustic soda (NaOH) solutions may be used by water treatment facilities for pH adjustment, those facilities would have little use for solid NaOH (100%) because of the material handling requirements.

CEI Top Screen

For the CEI list CISA will not be concerned about the inventory levels of the chemicals on the list. Instead, CISA would be interested only in facilities that produce or distribute the CEI identified above. CISA would determine that by means of a CEI Top Screen.  The reason for a separate Top Screen is that CISA would be using the on-line data collect tool to access different types of information. In addition to the standard location and facility information included in the current CFATS Top Screen, the CEI Top Screen would ask questions about:

• The CEI produced at or distributed from the facility,

• The amount of CEI produced or shipped through the facility,

• The amount of CEI shipped to water treatment facilities, and

• The water treatment facilities to which the CEI are shipped.

Risk Assessment

The whole point of the CEI Top Screen (as with the current CFATS Top Screen) is to provide CISA with the information necessary to complete a facility risk assessment. While the CFATS risk assessment is designed to determine the risk of a facility being attacked by terrorists based upon three specific security issues (release, theft/diversion, or sabotage), the new risk assessment would be based upon a new security issue; denial of chemical use. While this risk could still be based upon a terrorist attack, the risk assessment needs to consider the ultimate target, the water treatment facility.

A future post in the series will take a more detailed look at the risk assessment process.

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