Lawmakers call for chemical facility review after Texas blast

WASHINGTON Thu May 2, 2013 2:48pm EDT

An aerial view shows the aftermath of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, near Waco, Texas April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

An aerial view shows the aftermath of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, near Waco, Texas April 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic lawmakers are seeking a federal review of security at industrial chemical facilities after the deadly explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant in April.

The blast killed 15 people and injured scores more.

Representative Henry Waxman of California, ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, his counterpart on the House Homeland Security Committee, asked President Barack Obama on Thursday to set up an expert commission to assess security risks at chemical plants, refineries and related facilities.

Those committees have jurisdiction over the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, a regulatory program for high-risk chemical facilities.

Waxman and Thompson cited a "distressing lack of progress" in securing such facilities since the program was established in 2007.

Recent reports by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security and the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, have also found that the program is failing.

Since the April blast, it has been determined that the facility in Texas had never submitted required documentation under the CFATS program. But Homeland Security took no action and was unaware that the West plant had chemicals of concern at levels above the regulation threshold, the lawmakers noted.

"We ask you to consider steps that can be taken in response to the explosion to reduce the security risks of chemical plants, refineries, water treatment facilities, and other facilities holding large stores of industrial chemicals," the lawmakers wrote to Obama.

On Tuesday, Senator Barbara Boxer, head of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said she plans a hearing soon on the Texas disaster and will probe for gaps in the enforcement of chemical safety laws.

(Reporting By Ros Krasny; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (9)
50cal wrote:
The State of Texas assigned a Fire Marshal with 34 years of experience from Fireman to Fire Chief to Fire Marshal to investigate this. If obama and his minions stay away we will find out what really happened here and those deserving will get their punishment or reward. If not it will soon be so buried in partisan politics over gun control, immigration, and who knows what else that no one will be able to see through the fog. How do I know? Just look at the king’s track record everything he touches turns to s—. After all his crowning glory is obamacare…do we need more evidence?

May 02, 2013 2:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
I was wondering how 50cal would spin this into another attack on Obama. There’s nothing partisan about this – nothing particularly baffling either.

Fertilizer plants are regulated because ammonium nitrate is explosive. The limit is 500 lbs or so, this particular plant had 270 tons. They didn’t comply with regulations because they didn’t want to build another containment unit or storage facility, and the whole thing exploded, taking many innocent lives and a good part of the town. Pretty cut-and-dry.

But I think this article was saying that some people want security measures a chemical plants to be reviewed because, as they are essentially giant bombs waiting to be set off, they could be the target of an attack. This has nothing to do with what happened in Waco, we already know what happened there.

May 02, 2013 3:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TheNewWorld wrote:
I agree we should look into the enforcement issue. Regulations without enforcement are meaningless. Just like laws without enforcement are meaningless (immigration is a glaring example). Passing new laws without enforcing the existing ones is a mistake. Maybe some in government are finally getting it.

May 02, 2013 5:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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