On Monday, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) responded to recent provisiosn submitted by the Department of Homeland Security that would govern some aspsects of security in the petrochemical industry. In those provisions, which are parts of DHS's 2006 funding bill, some "high-risk" facilities' security would be overseen by the department, taking full control away from the private industry.
The issue of chemical plant security has been contentious, with private industry leaders concerned that the government is attempting to strip them of control at their plants. From Washington, however, has come equal concern that these private industry facilities could be attacked in such a way to harm nearby populations and the U.S. economy.
To respond to the provisions in the DHS funding bill, NRPA president Bob Slaughter issued a formal statement, which is reprinted below:
"We commend the conferees of the House and Senate DHS Appropriations Committees and the respective authorizing committees of both chambers for acting favorably on the DHS request for authority to establish risk-based security performance standards for high-risk facilities. NPRA agrees that the provision should not cover facilities already subject to the extensive security requirements of the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), and that the regulations should permit each covered facility to select appropriate measures to meet the standards set by DHS.
"NPRA is pleased that the legislation recognizes the importance of protecting vulnerability assessments and specific site security plans from unwarranted and problematic public disclosure, as does the MTSA. The measure does provide for the appropriate sharing of information with state and local law enforcement officials, along with first responders, whose vital duties may require in-depth knowledge of security-related information.
"NPRA member companies have taken strong security measures before and after 9-11. Security has always been and will continue to be a top priority for the industry. We are disappointed and quite frankly we are concerned that the legislation includes a three-year sunset provision on the DHS regulations. The petrochemical and refining industries have made and will continue to make major, long-term investments in protecting facilities, employees, and the surrounding communities from potential threats. We should be able to do so with the knowledge and confidence that requirements will not change every few years.
"The DHS and industry have created an outstanding working relationship in the shared fight against terrorism. This working partnership has been very effective in enhancing industry's ability to focus on those security threats that exist today and the potential threats that we may face in the future. NPRA and its members look forward to continuing this security partnership as the Department develops the interim final regulations."