Homeland security issues advisory opinions on anti-terrorism standards

Letters offer clarity on background checks, and define certain terms

Posted October 26, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued three new advisory opinions on the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). The advisory opinions address background check requirements for legacy employees, and clarifies the terms “A Commercial Grade” and “Transportation Packaging.”

The following is a summary of the advisory opinions on the standards found in 6 CFR part 27.

Background checks. Under the CFATS, covered chemical facilities must ensure that background checks are conducted on certain individuals with or seeking access to their restricted areas or critical assets. The letter on RBPS-12 Background Check Requirements for Legacy Employees addresses the requirement to conduct these background checks on legacy/long-time employees in addition to conducting them on newer employees. DHS’s longstanding position and interpretation of 6 C.F.R. §27.230(a)(12) is that background checks are required to be conducted for all facility personnel with access to restricted areas or critical assets at high-risk chemical facilities, regardless of their length of service.

“A Commercial Grade.” Any facility that holds a chemical of interest (COI) listed in the standards at or above the specified Screening Threshold Quantity (STQ) and concentration must report these COI to the DHS via a Top-Screen survey. A number of COI listed in the standards do not have associated specific, numerical minimum concentrations. In lieu of numerical concentrations, the COI are listed with the qualifier “ACG,” which stands for A Commercial Grade. DHS has received multiple inquiries from the stakeholder community requesting clarification of the term “A Commercial Grade.” This advisory opinion contains the Department’s interpretation of the term “A Commercial Grade” as used in CFATS.

“Transportation Packaging.” The standards require facilities to include only theft/diversion (T/D) chemicals of interest (COI) that are in transportation packaging when determining whether their holdings and COI are at or above the screening threshold quantity (STQ). DHS has received multiple inquiries from the stakeholder community requesting clarification of the term “transportation packaging.” This advisory opinion contains the Department’s interpretation of the term as it is used in the CFATS regulations and is not intended to impact the meaning or applicability of any other regulation, including the Hazardous Materials Regulations.

The CFATS program identifies and regulates high-risk chemical facilities to help ensure they have security measures in place to reduce the risks associated with these chemicals.

The Infrastructure Security Compliance Division, the office responsible for administering the CFATS program, issues advisory opinions to help clarify CFATS rules, whenever appropriate and in the interest of effective administration of the CFATS program. The advisory opinions are often in response to requests from chemical facilities and industry groups.


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