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DHS proposes security rules for chemical industry

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing regulations to improve security at high-risk chemical facilities nationwide that will require risk assessment and site security plans that meet DHS's performance standards.

The Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2007 granted the department authority to regulate the security of high-risk chemical facilities and requires that the proposed regulations be issued by April 4, 2007. The proposed regulations contemplate immediate implementation at the highest risk facilities, and a phased implementation at other chemical facilities that present security risks addressed by the statute, beginning in 2007 and continuing through 2008.

DHS said it intends to implement its new authority quickly and apply it aggressively. The department will validate submissions through audits and site inspections, and will provide technical assistance to facility owners and operators as needed. Failure to comply with performance standards may result in civil penalties up to $25,000 per day, and egregious instances of noncompliance could result in an order to cease operations.

Congress provided the department with the new authority "to set performance standards that are both sensible and disciplined, allowing owners and operators the flexibility to determine an appropriate mix of security measures at their facility under our supervision and subject to our approval," the DHS information stated.

According to the DHS information, the performance standards will be designed to achieve specific outcomes, such as securing the perimeter and critical targets, controlling access, deterring theft of potentially dangerous chemicals, and preventing internal sabotage. Security strategies necessary to satisfy these standards will depend upon the level of risk at each facility.

The proposed regulations provide chemical facilities with two opportunities to challenge the disapproval of a site security plan. DHS noted that most chemical facilities have already initiated voluntary security programs and made significant investments to achieve satisfactory security levels.

Public comments can be made until February 7, 2007. For more information, click here.

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