White House sees industry playing voluntary role for homeland security

By OGJ editors

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 20 -- A new White House security strategy report calls on the Departments of Homeland Security and Energy to work with industry on developing a coordinated approach to homeland security. But it stops short of mandating any specific approach.

"DHS and DOE will work with the oil and natural gas industry representatives to define consistent criteria for critically, standard approaches for vulnerability and risk assessments for various facilities, and physical security training for industry personnel," the White House said.

Officials made those comments as part of a new antiterrorism blueprint, "The National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets," released Feb. 14. The report generally gave the oil and gas sector high marks for its ongoing security initiatives. But more still needs to be done, the White House suggested.

One serious issue, the report said, is the lack of metrics to determine and justify corporate security expenditures. In the case of natural disasters or accidents, insurance plays an important role by providing well-established methods for determining risks.

Similarly, companies should find a uniform way to measure manmade risks. But it is not yet clear what levels of security and protection are appropriate and cost effective to meet the risks of terrorist attack, the White House said.

The federal government also expressed concern, for example, that locating and distributing replacement parts to repair damaged infrastructure might be difficult and should be improved. The report said components are not necessarily standardized across industry sectors; in fact some mechanisms are decades old and require custom retrofits.

Moreover, the report said, there is extensive variation in size, ownership, and security across facilities in the natural gas industry.

Associations representing various industry sectors have resisted calls by some lawmakers to follow mandated security standards. Industry groups including the American Petroleum Institute say they are already working closely with government security officials on establishing ways to protect critical infrastructures and do not need additional regulations that could prove to be counterproductive.

Pipelines
With regard to pipelines, the Department of Transportation and industry developed a methodology for protecting pipelines that corresponds with threat levels of the Homeland Security Advisory System.

DHS, in collaboration with DOE and DOT, plans a study to identify, clarify, and establish authorities and procedures to reconstitute facilities as quickly as possible after a disruption. It also plans to convene cross-sector working groups to develop models for integrating protection priorities and emergency response plans.

Legislative action
Congress for now appears to be satisfied with the collaborative arrangement between the oil industry and domestic security regulators. However, there remains vigorous interest in Congress to expand the government's authority in the chemical and hazardous material sector.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) last year unsuccessfully sought to have the Environmental Protection Agency, instead of DHS, oversee chemical security issues. Industry remains opposed to a mandatory role for EPA.

In what is seen as a compromise, the White House report said it wants DHS "in concert" with EPA to work with Congress to enact legislation that would require certain chemical facilities, particularly those that manage large quantities of hazardous chemicals near urban areas, to undertake vulnerability assessments and take "reasonable" steps to reduce risk.

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