01 October 2008 18:44 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US chemical manufacturers on Wednesday welcomed changes made to federal antiterrorism rules governing information about vulnerable production sites, saying the modifications will reduce confusion.?xml:namespace>
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has revised its manual for “Safeguarding Information Designated as Chemical-Terrorism Vulnerability Information (CVI),” which dictates how chemical plant operators must handle and protect information about their facilities that might give advantage to terrorists.
Under the federal Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) put in force last year, US chemical production, storage or use sites that are deemed at high risk for terrorist attack must prepare antiterrorism assessments and protection plans that meet DHS approval.
As part of the assessment requirements, high-risk chemical sites must detail how their facilities might be vulnerable to a terrorist attack and tell the department how they plan to remedy those security shortcomings.
Although plant operators must make those vulnerability assessments available to the department, the security regulations put sharp limits on with whom operators may share that information - for example, with local firefighters or state emergency response authorities.
According to Ted Cromwell, senior director for security and operations at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the revised manual for handling and disclosing CVI data “considerably reduces the confusion that was inherent in the original manual and makes it much more user friendly”.
The department said the revised manual clarifies, for example, what parts of the book constitute guidance and what parts are regulatory requirements.
The revision also clarifies how and when CVI data may be shared with public entities, such as state security agencies and local emergency response authorities.
Under the earlier version, said Cromwell, there was concern that plant operators might create enforcement liabilities with the department or state agencies if they shared - or refused to share - CVI data with any agency other than the department. That liability concern has been remedied, Cromwell said.
The revision also eases the requirement for nondisclosure agreements for employees at high-risk facilities. In the first manual, all employees at high-risk plants were required to sign an agreement saying they would not disclose critical information to non-authorised persons. That nondisclosure requirement now applies only to those facility employees who actually have access to CVI data in the first place.
“These changes were widely sought by people in the industry and officials at state and local agencies,” Cromwell said. “And there was recognition early on among DHS officials that there was some confusion in the manual about what CVI did and did not require.”
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