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Final Rule Sets Anti-Terrorism Standards for Chemical Facilities Nationwide

New York, Apr 09, 2007

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released federal regulations aimed at strengthening the security of chemical facilities nationwide. The final rule, issued April 2, establishes comprehensive risk-based performance standards for the nation’s 15,000 chemical facilities, and gives plant operators flexibility in their choice of measures to meet the standards.

Chemical facilities fitting certain profiles will be required to complete a preliminary screening assessment to determine their level of risk. Those identified as high risk will be required to submit vulnerability assessments along with site security plans that address the perceived issues. In particular, the standards target perimeter security, facility access control, chemical theft and sabotage prevention.

The ruling follows a heated debate over proposed draft regulations issued last December that would have overridden state security measures, even in cases where the latter were more stringent. Under the final rule, only state measures that interfere with or hinder the DHS regulations will be pre-empted.

“The safety and security measures that we take need to be tough and balanced,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “We will significantly reduce vulnerability at high-consequence chemical facilities, taking into account important efforts in certain states.”

The rules go into effect in sixty days. DHS will implement the regulations in phases, focusing first on the facilities that pose the highest security risks. Using a four-tier system, DHS will assess each plant for the type and amount of chemicals present, as well as its proximity to large population centers. In addition, DHS will require all chemical plant workers to undergo a standard background check.

Failure to comply with the regulations could lead to penalties of up to $25,000 per day, with the most egregious acts of noncompliance resulting in an order to cease operations.

The regulatory program is based on the Risk Analysis and Management for Critical Asset Protection (RAMCAP) Vulnerability Assessment Methodology, a framework developed by ASME Innovative Technologies Institute, LLC. as a broad methodology for determining the level of terrorist threat and vulnerability of all critical U.S. infrastructure sectors.

To view the final rule, please visit the DHS website.

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