Security Concerns Grow With Manipulation of Nitrate Fertilizers
If the evolving regulations and documentation developed under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Program seem onerous now, think again. New proposed rules will require much greater recordkeeping and for good reason. Although ammonium nitrate has long been the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) component of choice in Afghanistan and Pakistan, other products, such as calcium ammonium nitrate and even urea, may be added to this list, given concerns over 'manipulation' that can increase their explosive nature.
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have suggested to The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) that domestic use of IEDs for terrorist acts is expected. "We have been meeting with Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, director, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), on a regular basis," said Pam Guffain, vice president member services, TFI. "He noted that IEDs are already being used in Columbia and Somalia, and he is concerned that it's only a short time before they will be a problem in the U.S. The U.S. has had events using homemade explosive materials, and they feel IEDs could become a big issue due to availability of ammonium nitrate."
In fact, the fertilizer industry has been in the lead in demanding regulations in relation to ammonium nitrate, due to potential for misuse as a bomb feedstock. TFI went to Congress in 2005 requesting tighter controls on ammonium nitrate. While it took time for Congress to react, The Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act of 2007 was finally sent to President Bush to be signed in 2007. The law, which regulates fertilizer mixes containing 30 percent or more ammonium nitrate, took nearly four more years for rules to be proposed, and a year later the final rule is still being discussed. Proposed rules require sellers and purchasers to register with the DHS, be cleared through a terror-screening database and fulfill recordkeeping and other rules.
"Congress called for fairly straightforward registration of buyers and sellers and recordkeeping of transactions, what we were already doing on a voluntary basis," said Kathy Mathers, vice president of public affairs, TFI. "Our members are doing a good job making sure product stays in the right hands, but uniform national rules were needed. Now we are working to streamline the rules for our members."
STREAMLINING THE RULES
Guffain describes some of the rules that TFI has been working to "streamline." They include required registration and verification of registration of each individual purchase, though the same customer might make repeat purchases in a single day. TFI is working toward recognition of repeat sales that don't require repetitive registration and verification of individuals or their employees.