Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Is your facility subject to new Homeland Security rules?

Don't assume that the Department of Homeland Security's new, anti-terrorist security regulations affect only chemical facilities.

Any office, apartment, hospital, college, public works department, small business or other location that uses or stores any of 300 listed chemicals over certain quantities is subject to the rules and must conduct a facility survey and submit certain reports by early January, 2008.

Failure to comply could result in civil or administrative penalties--even a shutdown order!

In an Environmental Alert prepared for its clients, the law firm of K&LGates describes the new program and details the steps facilities must take to comply with the regulations.

We recommend that you check it out. It might help you avoid a lot of grief and expense in January.

SIDEBAR: In an editorial today, the New York Times today ripped the new Homeland Security regulations. Here's a section of it:

"The rules the department issued last week are far too lax about when facilities need to report stockpiles of chemicals like chlorine, fluorine and hydrogen fluoride to the government. According to the new rules, which watered-down proposed rules that the department had released in April, a chemical plant does not have to report the storage of 2,499 pounds of chlorine, even if it is located in a populated area — or across from an elementary school.

If 450 pounds of chlorine are stolen, enough to cause mass casualties, the theft need not be reported. Chlorine has been used by insurgents in Iraq, and it is high on the list of chemicals that should be kept out of terrorists’ hands.

It is troubling that these industry-friendly rules were developed in part by Department of Homeland Security employees who previously worked for the chemical industry — and who may one day work for it again. Rick Hind, the legislative director of the Greenpeace Toxics Campaign, contends that such employees have had an “undue influence.” The department says it draws on former chemical industry workers simply because of their “relevant prior experience.”

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