Web Date: November 2, 2007
Chemical Plant Security
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Friday released the long-awaited final list of chemicals in specified quantities that are of interest to the department in its efforts to deter terrorism. Dubbed Appendix A, the list of some 300 chemicals is part of the department's risk-based chemical-plant-security regulation.
Appendix A is a triggering mechanism. If a facility possesses a listed chemical in the specified quantity, it must complete and submit to DHS an online questionnaire called Top Screen. DHS will use Top Screen as the assessment tool to determine the level of potential risk posed by the facility. Those facilities deemed high risk will then have to comply with more substantive requirements of the security regulation.
Such widely used industrial chemicals as chlorine, propane, and anhydrous ammonia, as well as specialty chemicals such as arsine and phosphorus trichloride, made the final cut. Acetone and urea, however, were deleted from the list that was proposed last April.
DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff characterized Appendix A as "a critical piece of the federal effort to increase security at high-risk facilities, making it less likely that terrorists can use dangerous chemicals in attacks." Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he was glad to see DHS "moving forward on critical efforts to secure the nation's chemical sites."
The chemical industry was equally pleased with the list. Both the American Chemistry Council and the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association applauded DHS for taking a risk-based approach in finalizing the list. SOCMA, in particular, said the department "has taken the right approach in deciding which chemicals and what thresholds are necessary to screen chemical facilities for coverage under" the regulation.
Environmental and labor groups, however, took issue with the thresholds the department finalized. "We were shocked to learn that the department increased the exemption of chemical quantities for every high-priority chemical, including chlorine, ammonia, and hydrogen fluoride," said Rick Hind, legislative director for Greenpeace Toxics Campaign.
Hind was particularly dismayed by the threshold amount for chlorine, set at 2,500 lb. He noted that "there have been at least five terrorist attacks in Iraq this year using 150-lb cylinders of chlorine and two thefts of similar quantities of chlorine in California and Texas."
Appendix A is to be published in the Federal Register later this month.
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