Chemical Security in the US and around the world

Green Cross International (GCI), the US Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and the International Center for Chemical Safety and Security (ICCSS) came together on 27 July to discuss global efforts to improve chemical safety and security.

Worldwide, private companies and governments must cooperate to ensure that the production, storage and transport of chemical products are kept as safe as possible – including to protect against the threat of terrorists either attacking or stealing dangerous chemicals, which has been a growing concern for a number of countries in recent years.

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, the Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in the US State Department, discussed multilateral efforts under the Global Partnership, an international group of about 30 countries contributing since 2002 to the safe elimination of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons (and related systems), as well as to the improvement of site and transportation security.

Polish Ambassador Krzysztof Paturej spoke about the need to “go global,” to “go better and cheaper,” and to “de-politicize” the growing need for chemical safety and security. He also announced a new “Global Summit on Chemical Safety and Security” being organized by ICCSS in Poland, set for 18-20 April, 2016.

Ali Gakweli, the Deputy Government Chemist from the Kenyan Ministry of Health, talked about the terrorist threat in Kenya and the need to secure chemical trade, transportation, and storage facilities in Africa. Sharon Squassoni, senior fellow and director of the Proliferation Prevention Program at CSIS, chaired this session.

GCI’s Paul Walker led a discussion on evaluating and improving physical security at the over 37,000 chemical facilities in the United States.

Walker was joined by Todd Klessman, Senior Policy Advisor to the US Department of Homeland Security. The US Congress authorized DHS to regulate “high-risk” chemical facilities in 2007, establishing the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) to improve site security. Since then over 50,000 “top-screens”, or initial evaluations, have been conducted at over 37,000 chemical facilities. “Preliminary tiers” have been issued to over 8,700 facilities. CFATS now covers 3,227 facilities judged to be at risk of terrorist attack, and most of these have upgraded their site security and practices over the last few years.

Walker also chaired a discussion of recent changes in US consumer chemical safety – another important public concern. Among other things, serious questions are being raised about how much funding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will need to oversee science-based testing of chemicals in a timely way. Panelists included Dr. Michal Ilana Freedhoff from the office of US Senator Edward Markey, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; and Mr. Michael P. Walls, Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs of the American Chemistry Council.

The symposium was web-cast live, and the video remains available for viewing.