28 March 2009 21:59 [Source: ICIS news]
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS news)--Inherently safer technology (IST) is more of an engineering philosophy than a technique and as such it should not be made mandatory for chemicals producers, a National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) executive said on Saturday.
Some environmental groups are pushing Congress to include an IST mandate in Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) revisions, said NPRA vice president for petrochemicals Jim Cooper.
Work in Congress on chemical security issues "is moving a little bit more quickly than we thought it would", Cooper told ICIS news on the eve of the NPRA 2009 International Petrochemical Conference, which runs from Sunday through Tuesday.
The current standards are temporary and are due to expire in October.
"An unfortunate part of all this is Congress is looking at tacking on quite a few other items that really aren’t - in my opinion - security related," such as IST, he said.
"Basically that whole thing has been co-opted by certain groups that want to just get rid of toxic chemicals altogether," Cooper said. "They use it as a term that means product substitution."
Implementation of IST "is just a much greater challenge than people realise", Cooper said.
"It is not a technique; it is a concept - it is an engineering philosophy - that actually came from the chemical industry … particularly back in the 70s," he said. "It is something that is ingrained in everything we do but it is not something you can really legislate or regulate.
"It is not something you can pull off a shelf and apply - it is an overall way of approaching these things," he said.
Some environmental groups are using the current political environment in Congress to ban toxic chemicals, without thinking of effect that would have either on the supply chain or on the economy or on society in general, Cooper said.
"If you say all the water treatment facilities have to switch to bleach because it is inherently safer - well, how to do you make bleach? With chlorine, and so you concentrate chlorine in specific areas," he said.
"Who is going to explain to those communities [where chlorine production is concentrated] when all of the sudden their risk increases because they wanted to pass a law that says 'just use bleach'."
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