Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2007 12:12:14 -0400
Reply-To: Suzanne Howard <showard**At_Symbol_Here**WELLESLEY.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Suzanne Howard <showard**At_Symbol_Here**WELLESLEY.EDU>
Subject: Fwd: Dept of Homeland Secuirty Rule

This was in the chronicle of higher ed yesterday.

Federal Panel Will Discuss Modifying Chemical-Security Regulations to Suit
Needs of Colleges

[ mailto:lauren.smith**At_Symbol_Here** ]By LAUREN SMITH

Colleges worried about the costly burden of complying with proposed
federal regulations on storing hazardous chemicals got some good news at a
Congressional hearing on Tuesday. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which had proposed the rules,
has responded to those worries by establishing a working group to consider
reasonable ways to tailor the regulations to campuses, said a witness
testifying at the hearing. 

The department announced last Wednesday that it would form the group, said
Ara Tahmassian, associate vice president for research compliance at Boston
University and the witness representing higher education at the hearing.
The group will begin meeting within the first two weeks of August to
review and revise the regulations, he said. 

Members of the panel will include representatives of the Association of
American Universities, the American Council on Education, the Campus
Safety, Health and Environmental Management Association, the Council on
Government Relations, the National Association of College and University
Business Officers, and the National Association of State Universities and
Land-Grant Colleges. Mr. Tahmassian will also be a member, as well as
anyone else the representatives believe could make a significant

The other members are not yet settled, but they are likely to include
people from leading research universities, said Ada Meloy, director of
legal and regulatory affairs at the American Council on Education. 

Department officials apparently were receptive to complaints from academe
that regulations designed for manufacturing plants and other industrial
settings would not work well on university campuses. "They are absolutely
open to anything and everything," Mr. Tahmassian said. "They have heard
what our concerns are, and they accepted they were not familiar with our

No official from the department testified at the hearing about the
regulations' impact on higher education, and calls to the department for
comment on Tuesday were not returned. 

The hearing, held by the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland
Security's Subcommittee on Transportation, Security, and Infrastructure
Protection, convened to discuss the department's antiterrorism standards
for chemical facilities and their effect on the public and private

"We are not asking to be exempt from these regulations," said Mr.
Tahmassian. "We are asking that there is a different standard adopted." 

The "interim final rule," announced by the department in April, would
require colleges and others to inventory 342 "chemicals of interest." If a
college exceeded the "threshold quantity" for any of the chemicals, it
would be required to undergo a risk analysis and possibly submit to
stricter security requirements. The rule became effective in June, but a
list of the chemicals and their threshold amounts is still being revised. 

University officials were "surprised" by the new standards because the
list included a number of compounds that are common in laboratories, said
Mr. Tahmassian. "In our estimation, as originally published, the rule
would have applied to virtually every college and university in the
country, and probably to many hospitals, doctors' offices, and secondary
schools as well," he said. 

Boston University and its medical center, for example, have about 600 labs
in 25 buildings on two campuses two miles apart. "On any given day, some
portion of the chemicals housed in these laboratories is consumed in
experiments, and others are purchased or prepared as mixtures," he said.
"Most of these chemicals are stored in small containers, typically ranging
in size from tiny vials holding a few milliliters up to five-gallon

Documenting each amount, and setting up a tracking device for them, would
take longer than the department's 60-day deadline would allow, he said.
Other witnesses also criticized the deadline and called for sufficient
time to carry out the regulations efficiently. 

Suzanne Howard
Director, EHS
Wellesley College


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