Senate bill would extend chemical security rules

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor
WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 8 – Four members of the US Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee introduced bipartisan legislation to extend by 5 years existing federal regulations on chemical plant security.

Refiners and petrochemical plant operators have expressed concern that proposals for new chemical plant security requirements ignore a program that has not been fully implemented while attempting to indirectly impose new environmental regulations.

Sens. Susan M. Collins (R-Me.), Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), Mark L. Pryor (D-Ark.), and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said their bill, S. 2996, would give the US Department of Homeland Security sufficient time to fully implement standards that it developed in 2007.

Collins, the bill’s primary sponsor and the committee’s ranking minority member, praised DHS for its work in developing a comprehensive chemical security program.

“This industry is vital to our country’s economy and important to advancements and innovations, but it can also be a dangerous threat in the event of a terrorist attack,” she said. “That is why it is critical that we enable [DHS] to continue this important work. The legislation passed by the House of Representatives would unwisely bring this progress to a screeching halt.”

In her floor statement introducing the bill, Collins said DHS’s Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) establish 18 risk-based performance standards covering items such as securing the perimeter and critical targets, controlling access, deterring theft of potentially dangerous chemicals, and preventing internal sabotage.

“CFATS, however, does not dictate specific security measures,” she continued. “Instead, the law allows chemical facilities the flexibility to choose the security measures or programs that the owner or operator of the facilities decides would best address the particular facility and its security risks, so long as these security measures satisfy the department’s 18 performance standards.”

Phased implementation
She said since 2007 DHS has hired and trained more than 100 chemical facility field inspectors and headquarters employees and hopes to employ 260 more by the end of fiscal 2010. DHS also has received more than $200 million to date to support CFATS, she indicated.

Collins explained that to determine which facilities posed the highest risks, DHS first required chemical plants possessing certain threshold quantities of specified chemicals to complete an online security assessment called “top-screen.” Based on this assessment and any other available information, DHS then determined whether a facility presented a high security risk level and preliminarily divided such plants into four tiers of escalating risk.

While all covered facilities must satisfy DHS’s performance standards, security measures sufficient to meet them are more robust in higher tiers, Collins said. For plants that qualified as “preliminarily high risk,” DHS required preparation and submission of security vulnerability assessments that enabled the department to more accurately identify each plant’s risk and assign final risk tier rankings. Based on those rankings, facilities must develop site security plans and submit to inspections or audits to ensure compliance, the senator said.

DHS employees involved in CFATS have processed a tremendous amount of information in relatively short time, she noted. “According to the department, since establishing CFATS, it has reviewed almost 38,000 Top-Screen submissions and notified more than 7,000 facilities of their high-risk designations and preliminary tiers,” she said.

As of December, however, CFATS covered only 6,000 facilities, according to Collins. “Some facilities closed; others made material modifications that altered their risk profile,” she said. “Of those remaining, the department has assigned final tiers to almost 3,000, including all of the facilities in Tiers 1 and 2, and is now reviewing their site security plans.”

‘Swap horses’
DHS has received generally positive reviews as it has implemented CFATS in partnership with the private sector, and the program has been praised as a model for security-based regulation, she continued. “Notwithstanding the department’s success in the program and the considerable costs that facilities have incurred in complying with it, some now want to ‘swap horses in midstream’ by radically overhauling the law,” said Collins, adding that a bill the House passed in November would dramatically alter CFATS’s nature and stop its progress dead in its tracks.

She and the bill’s three co-sponsors were particularly critical of the House measure’s provision requiring the use of inherently safer technology (IST) in CFATS Tier 1 and 2 plants. “IST is an approach to process engineering involving the use of less dangerous chemicals, less energetic reaction conditions, or reduced chemical inventories,” Collins said. “It is not, however, a security measure. And because there is no precise methodology by which to measure whether one technology is safer than another, an IST mandate may actually increase or unacceptably transfer the risk to other points in the chemical process or elsewhere on the supply chain.”

Forcing chemical plants to implement IST could wreak economic havoc on some facilities and affect availability of several commonly used end products, she warned. A mandatory IST program could encourage chemical companies to move their operations overseas, she added.

“To be clear, some owners and operators of chemical facilities will want to use IST. But the decision to implement [it] should be that of the owner or operator, not a Washington bureaucrat,” Collins said. “In fact, the evidence is quite compelling that many chemical facilities, based on an assessment of many complex factors, have already taken steps to avoid the use, storage, and handling of extremely dangerous chemicals in favor of safer alternative processes. [DHS’s] own data indicate that nearly 1,000 facilities voluntarily adopted safer alternative processes.”

The House bill also includes provisions directing the US Homeland Security Secretary to establish new risk-based performance standards and allowing third-party lawsuits against DHS over CFATS’s implementation, she said. S. 2996, in contrast, would not only continue work already under way but also establish a voluntary chemical security training program for federal, state, and local governments; chemical industry employees; and government and non-government responders, and a voluntary program to test these capabilities, Collins said.
Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

Related Articles

Congressional Republicans renew bid to halt sue-and-settle maneuvers

02/05/2015 Calling it an affront to regulatory accountability that results in unchecked compliance burdens, US Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and US Rep. D...

Oil-price collapse may aggravate producing nations’ other problems

02/05/2015 The recent global crude-oil price plunge could be aggravating underlying problems in Mexico, Colombia, and other Western Hemisphere producing natio...

Goodlatte reintroduces bills to repeal, reform RFS

02/05/2015 Calling it “a true ‘kitchen table’ issue,” US Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) reintroduced a pair of bills to address problems in the federal Renewable ...

Alberta’s premier seeks more North American energy integration

02/05/2015 Better policy integration and cooperation will be needed for Canada, Mexico, and the US to fully realize the North American energy renaissance’s po...

Oil, gas infrastructure investments essential, House panel told

02/04/2015 Investments in oil and gas transportation and storage should move ahead because they are essential in continuing the US economic recovery and North...

EPA suggests DOS reconsider Keystone XL climate impact conclusions

02/03/2015 The US Department of State might want to reconsider its conclusions regarding potential climate impacts from the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pip...

Obama’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget recycles oil tax increases

02/02/2015 US President Barack Obama has proposed his federal budget for fiscal 2016 that he said was designed to help a beleaguered middle class take advanta...

So much for cooperation

02/02/2015 Congressional majority leaders and the Obama administration came into 2015 pledging to at least try to be less combative and more cooperative in ru...

Woodside gets NEB approval for British Columbia LNG exports

02/02/2015 Woodside Energy Holdings Pty. Ltd. has received approval from Canada’s National Energy Board on its application for a 25-year natural gas export li...
White Papers

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...

Accurate Thermo-Fluid Simulation in Real Time Environments

The crux of any task undertaken in System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis is striking a balance between ti...

6 ways for Energy, Chemical and Oil and Gas Companies to Avert the Impending Workforce Crisis

As many as half of the skilled workers in energy, chemical and oil & gas industries are quickly he...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Oil & Gas Journal’s Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015

Fri, Jan 30, 2015

The  Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015 Webcast will address Oil & Gas Journal’s outlooks for the oil market and pipeline construction in a year of turbulence. Based on two annual special reports, the webcast will be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and OGJ Managing Editor-Technology Chris Smith.
The Forecast & Review portion of the webcast will identify forces underlying the collapse in crude oil prices and assess prospects for changes essential to recovery—all in the context of geopolitical pressures buffeting the market.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected