Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DHS Hosts CFATS Update Webinar

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) Director of the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) Sue Armstrong on Monday hosted an hour-long public webinar providing an agency update on the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). The webinar began with a brief summary of CFATS, the purpose behind Congressional authority for regulation of chemical facility security, and the current status of CFATS compliance nationwide.

According to Armstrong, more than 7,000 facilities were preliminarily tiered under CFATS and were told to submit a Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA). DHS then received 6,300 SVAs; some facilities modified their Top-Screens and were tiered out of the regulation. DHS continues to review the remaining 2,516 SVAs and to direct some facilities to submit a Site Security Plan (SSP). The agency expects to continue issuing final tiering letters through the summer, with the goal of issuing approximately 500 letters per month.

Aside from the general status report, Armstrong mentioned several specific issues of interest. First, she noted that when reviewing SSPs, DHS is taking into significant consideration the extent to which a facility provides for facility cyber and process control using remote monitoring. Armstrong also noted the emphasis DHS is putting on SSP review of facility outreach programs to local and state first responders. According to Armstrong, SSP review will focus on whether a facility has adopted a cooperative plan or program with local emergency responders.

Regarding facility inspections, Armstrong said that to date, DHS has initiated inspections at two Tier 1 facilities, which DHS will leverage to assess its own assumptions and expectations regarding CFATS facility inspections. DHS continues to amend its own inspection process, but facilities can expect an inspection to take around one week, with two on-the-ground DHS inspectors onsite. Beyond the initial inspection, DHS expects Tier 1 facilities to be inspected annually, Tier 2 facilities to be inspected biannually, and Tier 3 and Tier 4 facilities to be inspected as necessary, in a "prioritized" manner. To date, DHS has hired 142 ISCD personnel and continues to hire and train chemical inspectors. Eventually, DHS expects to open at least ten regional inspection offices.

DHS also emphasized its goal of closing the exemption gap currently provided to facilities regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) as well as to water and wastewater treatment facilities. According to Armstrong, DHS is seeking to establish a Working Group with the U.S. Coast Guard, in order to facilitate CFATS harmonization with MTSA regulations.

Lastly, Armstrong summarized the recent discussion around the applicability of CFATS to gasoline terminals, noting the Top-Screen submissions of several facilities with gasoline and the subsequent filing of a petition regarding gasoline terminal coverage by the International Liquid Terminals Association (ILTA) in May 2009. Armstrong mentioned DHS's publication of a 60-day Request for Comments last month regarding CFATS applicability to gasoline, and reiterated the request for comments by March 16.

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