Security: Getting Ahead Of The Problem

Alternative security standards.

The Compressed Gas Association has been in the standards-setting business for over 93 years. During this long history, CGA has dealt with numerous issues relative to the safety of industry employees and the public, both in the manufacturing facility and on the road. We are proud of our record and currently have about 256 standards and related documents in publication.

Security Standards
CGA has been focused on the security issue for years. Immediately following 9/11, CGA formed a committee of the industry’s top security experts. CGA’s Security Committee developed three standards to address potential security threats. They cover site security recommendations, transportation protection and protecting against unauthorized procurement of compressed gases. Adequate security in these three areas is absolutely necessary to ensure that your company is not vulnerable.

For gases and welding distributors, all three standards apply. You don’t think that your business is vulnerable? Think again. There have been attempts to breach security in these areas with large and small gas distributorships. Fortunately, either an alert distributor was able to thwart the attempt or, if successful, the criminal has yet to act with the products that were stolen.

We don’t know exactly what threats we face. History has shown that some of our gases in the wrong hands can do serious harm. We also know that we can face this threat at some of the largest gas production facilities in the world or in a one-person industrial gas distribution facility in rural North Dakota. In either case, if terrorists can break through security protections, it can be equally damaging to people and our industry.

Department of Homeland Security
Congress has tried to pass chemical security legislation for several years. The debate has centered on how much security is enough and changing the chemical industry’s processes and products to reduce the potential threat. Time and time again, more comprehensive bills were proposed, but consensus was not possible. Nonetheless, chemical security provisions were attached to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) appropriations bill and were signed into law in October 2006.

The new law requires that DHS regulate chemical facilities that pose a higher risk to the nation’s security. DHS has only six months to publish a regulation. For a department that has not regulated in the past, this is a formidable challenge. DHS has indicated its intention to publish a notice in the Federal Register that will outline its approach and most likely request information from the chemical industry on various security related topics. DHS has stated publicly that is plans to meet the April 4, 2007, deadline to publish regulations.

Fortunately, the new law includes some aspects that are consistent with CGA’s view of security. First, the law limits DHS’s regulatory authority to those facilities that pose a higher risk. While risk is a relative term, Congress’s intent is that security requirements be risk-based. Since the industry has limited resources, we need to maximize their use. Also, the law allows DHS to consider “alternative” security programs from the public and private sectors as a means of achieving the regulations. CGA believes that its standards satisfy that provision and that our standards are a better means of cost-effectively meeting the congressional mandate.

Revised CGA Standards
In order to get ahead of the problem and ensure that our standards are actively considered as alternative programs to regulations that DHS would develop, in 2006 CGA substantially revised the site security standard (P-50) and created a new standard (P-53) that provides a method of screening your facility for vulnerable areas that need to be addressed. P-51, the transportation security standard, is currently under revision, as is P-52, the standard that addresses procurement security.

CGA has been working with the Gases and Welding Distributors Association on security matters. GAWDA has provided input during CGA’s standards development and revision process. CGA has provided comments to the DHS on its Federal Register notice. We need to ensure as much industry alignment on the security issue as possible and that the government receives the benefit of input from all segments of our industry.

Where do we go from here? CGA believes that our industry needs to continue to stay ahead of the problem. As of this writing, we do not know how the Department of Homeland Security plans to regulate our industry, nor do we know which facilities will be covered by the regulations. What we do know, however, is that we are a possible target, and an incident that involves any facility in our industry will affect us all. We also believe that our security standards rank among the best. Education and vigilance are the keys to our industry’s security. No longer can we assume that it will happen to someone else or some other industry, or that the threat will go away someday. I strongly urge you to assess your company’s vulnerabilities.

There is no doubt that those who wish to do us harm may turn to our products as a means of carrying out their criminal ambitions. CGA strongly believes that we have to protect our industry against threats to its security in order to meet our primary goal: safety.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
 Marc Meteyer Meet the Author
Marc Meteyer is president and CEO of the Compressed Gas Association, headquartered in Chantilly, Virginia, and on the Web at www.cganet.com.