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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

DHS Finalizes Chemical Security List

November 13, 2007

When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its new Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standard (CFATS) last spring, one key component-the list of chemicals and thresholds that trigger security concerns-was not in final form. Now, after months of deliberation and consultation, DHS has posted a revised version of Appendix A.

The original proposal listed more than 100 chemicals with thresholds of "any amount," but the final version now stipulates a threshold for almost all chemicals. In addition, the revised list excludes several chemicals commonly found on campus-such as acetone, carbon monoxide, and urea-and establishes higher threshold quantities for others. These modifications should help limit the impact of the rule on many colleges and universities, all of which are subject to CFATS.

Any institution that possesses (or expects to possess) any chemical listed in Appendix A in an amount greater than the screening threshold quantity must complete a Top-Screen—an online survey that DHS uses to assess the facility’s vulnerability and to determine whether additional steps need to be taken. The time frame for compliance is tight:  facilities must complete a Top-Screen within 60 days after publication of Appendix A in the Federal Register  (expected around November 16). 

Acknowledging that colleges and universities may need to inventory hundreds of laboratories and other campus sites, DHS will allow academic institutions to request up to an additional 60 days to complete the Top-Screen. A president, provost, dean, or other senior official must make the request. (NACUBO will soon provide specific instructions for requesting an extension, along with a form letter to use.)

Appendix A categorizes the chemicals by the type of hazard they present. The three main categories are: Release, Theft/Diversion, and Sabotage/Contamination. Threshold quantities were based on the type of threat posed. In several instances, a chemical appears under more than one category with different thresholds. Instructions for determining quantities of chemicals sometimes vary by the security issue faced. Colleges and universities should benefit from an exemption for facilities that possess laboratory quantities of chemicals that are of concern for release because they are toxic, flammable, or explosive.

The November notice also discusses the definition of a "facility" and clarifies that an entity may decide how to define one for the purposes of completing the Top-Screen. According to the guidance, "an institution of higher learning can, if appropriate, submit a Top-Screen on a building-to-building basis or a campus-wide basis." How an institution defines its facilities will affect the number of Top-Screens it needs to complete-or perhaps whether it needs to do so at all. These definitions, in turn, will affect the scope of the institution’s vulnerability assessment and security plan, if required.

Most likely, CFATS will apply to universities with significant research endeavors, although some smaller institutions may be affected as well. Those with certain types of facilities, such as power plants or cogeneration facilities, may have quantities of ammonia in excess of the threshold, for instance. A facility is required to complete a Top-Screen if it has even one chemical of interest in sufficient quantity, so a single laboratory doing unusual research might trigger compliance requirements. (See for more information)

Association Efforts

Over the last few months, NACUBO has been working closely with the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the Campus Safety, Health and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA), the Council on Governmental Relations, and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges to communicate the concerns of institutions of higher education to DHS. While fulfilling its mandate to increase chemical security, DHS has proven willing to work with us to facilitate compliance by colleges and universities.

The associations continue to collaborate on this issue, and will provide guidance to their members on:

  • Submitting extension requests
  • Completing an inventory and submitting the Top-Screen
  • Assessing vulnerabilities
  • Preparing a security plan (including a model alternative security plan for academic institutions)

Professional Development Opportunity

November 29 Webcast

As part of this effort, NACUBO is pleased to cosponsor a Web cast with CSHEMA to help institutions understand their obligations under CFATS and develop plans for compliance. The Web cast will take place on November 29 at 1:00 p.m. EST. For more information Register here.


NACUBO Contact: Anne C. Gross, vice president, regulatory affairs