DHS Looks to Increased Collaboration with Ammonia Refrigeration Industry

Changes could be coming to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, or CFATS, program run by the Department of Homeland Security, which could mean the agency will issue revised regulations and seek increased collaboration within the ammonia refrigeration industry.

In response to President Obama’s executive order requesting improved safety and security at chemical facilities, the DHS issued in August an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for CFATS, which was created seven years ago.

For the ammonia refrigeration industry, this could result in changes in regulatory approach and risk-based standards, along with new guidelines for perimeter security, cyber security, training, and even the thresholds and concentration of “chemicals of interest” that trigger regulation.

“It’s the right time to build the next generation of CFATS regulation,” said David Wulf, DHS Director of the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) within the Office of Infrastructure Protection. “I encourage IIAR and its membership to take a look at the advance notice and think about how CFATS regulations can be enhanced. Can the approach for [site security plan] approval be streamlined? Do we list the right chemicals? Should threshold quantities be adjusted? There will be plenty of opportunity for dialogue for our stake-holders.”

For its latest notice of proposed rulemaking, the DHS will hold a series of “listening sessions” and webinars across the country, after which a formal notice of rulemaking will be issued, followed by another period for feedback.

One initiative DHS is currently working to implement is designed to simplify the process of approval for a site security plan for companies with multiple facilities. The new approach was outlined at the recent Chemical Sector Security Summit and then discussed with the Chemical Sector Coordinating Council, an organization comprised of representatives from across the chemical industry, including IIAR that was formed to foster dialogue between the agency and the chemical industry.

Under the plan for streamlining site security for companies with multiple facilities, a corporate point of contact from DHS’s compliance branch would be assigned to work on a one-on-one basis with an individual company. Looking at security-related policies that may apply across multiple facilities will streamline the review, inspection and site security plan approval process. The resulting plan would extend to all facilities that a company might manage.

“IIAR members with multiple facilities regulated under CFATS might want to consider participating in this. Inspections will go more quickly because policies that are applicable across the company will have essentially been pre-reviewed,” Wulf said. “Having a point of contact and developing a plan that makes sense given the company’s footprint, leads to more efficiency and allows facilities to reach approval more quickly.”

Wulf said the DHS will also continue to focus on an outreach program to provide education on the requirements outlined in CFATS by talking directly to facilities, speaking to industry associations at the national and state level and working closely with state regulatory agencies.

He added that the CFATS program benefits the industry because of its “non-prescriptive nature.”

“Industry members and facilities are able to tailor their security measures to their specific facility and business needs,” he said.

Since its creation, the CFATS program has been authorized on a yearly basis, but there are signs that could soon change. The House of Representatives recently passed the CFATS Authorization and Accountability Act, which would provide long-term authorization for the program. In August, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed out-of-committee a bill that would extend authorization for four years. If the bill passes through both houses of Congress, it will reach the president’s desk before the current session of Congress ends this fall.

“Our focus [with CFATS] is to get to the next generation of regulation, to get the word out about the program to ensure that all chemical facilities that should be reporting information to DHS are in fact doing that, and for the chemical industry to continue providing us feedback on ways we can enhance the program” Wulf said.