Industry must take security rules seriously - US agency

25 March 2009 21:19  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--An official with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) urged chemical companies on Wednesday to improve their compliance with Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), referencing the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks as part of the plea.

“This is about September 11,” said Laurie Boulden, senior compliance officer with the DHS. “This is about what the chemical industry went through after that day. We can’t forget just because it’s been eight years that that’s what this is about.”

Speaking at the American Chemistry Council‘s annual ChemSecure Conference in Houston, Boulden cited a reluctance of chemical executives to answer follow-up questions and provide accurate information as leading problems with the current programme.

“You guys give us a lot of good information because you want us to know your side of the story,” Boulden said to the audience. “But to truly know those stories, we have got to ask further questions. … If you’re using a certain chemical, we may need to know where you got it or why.”

Discussion over CFATS dominated the three-day chemical security conference. The two-year-old legislation will expire on 30 September, and terms of the new deal are expected to be debated in Congress this summer.

Most chemical companies have said they support the programme but are against potentially more strict additions to it, including a mandate for Inherently Safer Technology  (IST).

But from the government’s perspective, more stringent terms may be necessary to get the chemical industry to take the legislation more seriously, Boulden indicated.

“If they don’t give us serious information, there’s not much point to this,” Boulden said. “Somebody last year put [on their security vulnerability assessment] that while their tanks were completely visible from the road, they didn’t think anyone was a good enough shot to hit their tanks.

“Well, if everyone can see it, I’m thinking someone could probably make the shot. That’s what makes me think they’re not taking it seriously.”

Several chemical security executives responded negatively to the DHS presentation in a Q&A session, with one going as far as to call it a “scolding” on the part of the government.

However, Boulden said the discussion was needed as the DHS seeks to improve programme compliance going forward and to build a better relationship with the industry.

“I wasn’t intending to scold,” Boulden said. “We get that no one likes regulation, but we have tried really hard to be a different kind of regulation. We’re not going to have checklists. No two facilities are going to have the same standards.

“This is a very unique regulation and it should be an opportunity for both us as well as those of you in the industry. We’re not coming in there and saying you must do X, Y and Z. We’re just saying to tell us your story, tell us your information and work with us.”

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By: Ben DuBose
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