NEWS

DHS Cuts Chemicals from Security Risk List

By Matthew Harwood

As reported Friday, the Department of Homeland Security released its finalized list of "chemicals of interest" that it would regulate and what quantities present onsite would trigger a risk assessment. The government worries that large stockpiles of chemicals could be targeted by terrorists.

According to The Washington Post, DHS cut  the number of chemicals to be regulated as well as lowered the reporting threshold of particular chemicals due to industry pressure .

DHS in April proposed a list of 344 chemicals that businesses would have to track and disclose to the department through an online reporting system. But under heavy criticism from industry, it released a less stringent version yesterday, reducing the number of targeted chemicals to about 300 and raising the reporting threshold of many chemicals of highest security concern.

For instance, DHS increased the reporting trigger for stored chlorine from 1,875 pounds to 2,500 pounds, exempting a standard one-ton shipping cylinder used by industry. Insurgents in Iraq have used bombs to disperse liquid chlorine into toxic gas clouds.

DHS also increased the disclosure threshold for ammonium nitrate from 7,500 pounds to 10,000 pounds. That substance was a component in fertilizer-based bombs used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

DHS says that it raised its original reporting threshold to match Environmental Protection Agency safety standards. Originally, some chemicals' reporting threshold was set at 75 percent of the EPA's standard.

PJ Crowley, director of homeland security expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, said DHS was wrong to raise  the reporting threshold for harmful chemicals "since the risk associated with a deliberate terrorist attack is more severe than the potential for an accidental release."

The finalized list of chemicals is an appendix to DHS' Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Standards(CFATS), a critical government effort to protect the nation's chemical infrastructure from terrorist attack.

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