Corrected: US security mandate may harm chem safety - executives

24 March 2009 21:47  [Source: ICIS news]

Correction: In the ICIS news story headlined “US security mandate may harm chem safety - executives” dated 24 March 2009, please read in the eighth paragraph … Griffin said … instead of … Griffin said, who added he could not give specifics for security reasons …. A corrected story follows.

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US chemical executives said on Tuesday that the safety risks of abandoning certain chemical products through an inherently safer technology (IST) mandate could outweigh the intended security benefits.

“IST implementation does not eliminate all risk, and there may be unforeseen consequences," Rick Griffin, senior process technology specialist at Chevron Phillips Chemical, said at the American Chemistry Council's annual ChemSecure Conference in Houston. “(Safety issues) scare me more than a lot of the security issues do.

“If you only look at the (safety) risk presented by a site, an IST change may increase the overall risk,” her said.

An IST mandate will be debated when Congress examines the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) this year. The current programme, which only requires the consideration of IST strategies, expires at the end of September.

Griffin said the IST issue was challenging for legislators to address because it “does not fit well into traditional regulatory framework”.

“The folks in Congress don’t have the overall understanding of IST that I have,” Griffin said. “You’ve got a regulatory scheme that, by definition, is going to be a one-size-fits-all approach, and IST isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.”

In addition, the executives said giving the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) full jurisdiction of such a mandate could be problematic.

For example, if the DHS believed terrorists were looking to steal a certain chemical, the DHS could tell a facility to store it differently or use an alternative form without fully considering the safety of plant workers or damage to the environment, Griffin said.

The DHS can only consider security risks, and chemical companies must consider risks not only to security but also to safety and environmental issues, Griffin said.

“If the DHS regulates IST, it’s going to be for security and for security only,” Griffin said.

Bill Koch, global director of process integrity at Air Products, said that to be truly effective, IST strategies should be performed before the launch of chemical facilities.

“It offers limited value after a facility is constructed and operational,” Koch said. “Yes, we can replace this with that, but the challenge is what the cost impact is on the product at that point. In most cases, businesses will not be able to sustain some of these types of changes.”

As a result, executives concurred yet again that a government mandate isn’t necessary, and again encouraged chemical companies to reach out to legislators and explain to them that the current security measures are satisfactory.

“Maybe there’s not a problem and they don’t realise it,” said ACC general counsel Judah Prero.

"We don't have a problem with the government playing a role, but it's a complicated process, and because of that, the people who should be making the final decisions should be the people with expertise in doing it," Prero said.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Ben DuBose
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