The West Fertilizer Accident: Road Map of AN and NH3 Regulations
DHS: TERRORISM PREVENTION
DHS regulates Chemical Security Anti-Terrorism Statutes (CFATS) that present high levels of security risk and also regulates the sale and transfer of AN by an AN facility to prevent the misappropriation or use of AN in an act of terrorism.
DHS regulates AN and NH3 fertilizers as a chemical of interest under CFATS for different threats. Under CFATS, any facility storing more than 400 lbs. of AN (or 2,000 lbs. of agricultural grade AN which normally has less than 0.2 percent combustible organics) is considered a theft threat and, therefore, must submit a “top screen survey application” to DHS. NH3 is a toxic chemical release threat –and as such has a screening threshold quantity (STQ) of 10,000 lbs.
Daren Coppock, ARA president and CEO, participated in a panel discussion about the West Fertilizer Co. explosion on the April 23 Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio. A top screen is used to determine whether the facility presents a high level of security risk. If so, the facility is required to submit a security vulnerability assessment (SVA) to DHS. The department reviews the SVA and advises the facility as to its status as a covered facility. DHS has established four tiers of security risk–Tier 1 is for the highest risk facilities and Tier 4 is for the lowest risk facilities. A facility that is tiered in one of the four tiers must submit a site security plan. If DHS determines a facility is not a threat, no tier will be assigned and DHS will advise the facility that no further action is required. To our knowledge, not one ag retailer has been inspected, but lower risk facilities such as ag retailers are scheduled for inspection starting this year.
DHS regulates the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate by each facility that handles this product. This is done to prevent the misappropriation or use of ammonium nitrate in an act of terrorism. However, the rule has been held up at DHS in the rule making process since 2008 with an expectation of a final rule released by the end of 2013.
DOT: HAZMAT TRANSPORTATION
DOT regulates the transportation of hazardous materials such as AN which is administered by the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA). The DOT regulations govern the transportation of hazardous materials by highway, rail, vessel and air. The regulations address hazardous materials classification, packaging, hazard communication, emergency response information and training.
AN is classified as a 5.1 oxidizer. As a 5.1 oxidizer, AN in quantities of 1,000 lbs. or more must be placarded and meet certain container specifications. Companies that transport AN must train employees, register with DOT and comply with all other applicable PHMSA requirements for hazardous materials. DOT also considers ammonium nitrate to pose a security risk; therefore, all placarded loads must have a security plan. Motor carrier drivers must have a commercial driver’s license with a hazardous materials endorsement.