US may soon require safer technology consideration, reporting

08 July 2010 21:05  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--The US may soon require that chemical facilities consider, document and report on the potential role for inherently safer technologies in plant site security, a top official said on Thursday.

Lawrence Stanton, senior technical advisor to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on infrastructure security compliance, told an industry conference that while under current law his department could not impose an inherently safer technology (IST) mandate on facilities, “we believe that IST should be part of the overall management of risk in this post-9/11 world”.

Under existing regulations for chemical plant security, formally known as the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), the department sets criteria for security at plant sites deemed to be at high risk for terrorist attack, but the agency may not dictate what security measures an operator implements to meet those criteria.

“But there is nothing in CFATS that says we are barred from considering IST” as a security measure, Stanton said.

“In fact, CFATS is constructed to encourage the application of IST-like measures to questions of security risk management,” he added.

Inherently safer technology can involve such adjustments as the reduction of on-site inventories of hazardous chemicals or the consolidation of operations, and other measures that chemical manufacturers have long used to make their operations and processes safer and less costly.

But the US chemicals sector has been strongly opposed to legislation pending in Congress that would impose an IST mandate on producers as part of an update and expansion of CFATS. Such a mandate is supported by the White House and DHS.

Whatever the outcome of the legislative and political battle over an IST mandate, Stanton told the eighth annual chemical sector security summit that under existing law, DHS does have authority to incorporate IST.

He said the department may establish a CFATS requirement for chemical facilities to “consider” IST measures as part of their security vulnerability risk assessments and site security plans.

The department also might require that such consideration of IST options be documented by a facility’s operators, to include alternatives considered and analysis of each alternative chemical or process.

Lastly, under existing authority of CFATS, the department could require that companies report to DHS on the results of their site-specific IST consideration and analysis.

Stanton emphasised that the department did not have authority to require any company to implement the results of such a consider, document and report requirement for IST. “That would require action by Congress,” he noted.

He said that the department did not plan to roll-out its IST consideration requirement without obtaining input from the chemicals industry, and he invited executives at the summit and others in the chemicals sector to offer suggestions.

“We don’t think we can do this without industry input,” Stanton said, “so we are reaching out, we want to talk, we want to engage in dialogue with you.”

He said the department wanted to bring IST tools within the context of the existing CFATS regulatory programme.

“IST can be very effective, which is why we would like to get that tool in the toolbox, which is why we want to try to adapt IST to risk management,” he said.

Stanton did not indicate when the department might want to begin requiring so-called IST consideration.

He said that information provided to the department under such an IST consideration requirement would likely be protected from disclosure under existing CFATS provisions, since the information being provided would be the same, in most cases, as that already required for compliance with CFATS rules.

Cosponsored by DHS and industry associations in the Chemical Sector Co-ordinating Council, the security conference concludes on Thursday.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Joe Kamalick
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