US senator wants federal hearing on West Fertilizer explosion

30 April 2013 22:37  [Source: ICIS news]

US senator wants federal hearing on West Fertilizer explosionHOUSTON (ICIS)--Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works said Tuesday that she intends on holding a hearing very shortly on the West Fertilizer explosion and determine what gaps exist in the enforcement of chemical regulations and safety laws.

Investigators reviewing the deadly fertilizer explosion in West, Texas have yet to determine what caused of the 17 April blast that killed 14 and inflicted an estimated $100m in property damage.

A joint force consisting of the Texas Fire Marshal's Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have made progress on ruling out possible culprits but said Tuesday they are not close to making a final determination.

Boxer said she sent letters to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CSB on Tuesday requesting the agency provide more information regarding their role in overseeing chemical safety at these facilities. While West Fertilizer has been characterised as a fertilizer plant, it would be more accurately described as a retail distribution center that was engaged in blending fertilizers.

In a statement, Boxer said it was critical that the government and American public eventually discover how the tragic accident occurred and to take steps to not have a repeat incident.

“I cannot rest until we get to the bottom of what caused the disaster in West, Texas and the tragic loss of life,” said Boxer. “We must ensure that facilities like the one in West are complying with chemical safety laws. We will look at how the laws on the books are being enforced and whether there is a need to strengthen them.”  

She also raised the question as to why the EPA does not include ammonium nitrate, a suspect source of the tremendous blast in West, on the list of chemicals that require notification under the Risk Management Program.

At this point, officials have ruled out natural causes, such as lightening, as well as the company’s four tanks of anhydrous ammonia or a Union Pacific railcar that was initially thought to be containing ammonium nitrate as being factors in igniting the detonation.


By: Mark Milam



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