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It has been almost eleven months since a deadly ammonium nitrate explosion and fire at a fertilizer plant changed life forever for the 2,800-plus residents of West, Texas.
State action needed
Some fault the State of Texas for a lack of safety regulations and programs related to the storage and use of chemical materials, further suggesting that it is the result of a state government that has long been "corporate friendly" when it comes to minimizing the cost of doing business within the state. Such policy, they say, has caused friction between
Texas officials and safety officials at the federal Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA).
As further evidence of their suspicions, some local officials are asking why, nearly a year after the incident, the state has yet to properly address the safety hazards related to the storage of ammonium nitrate statewide. Some also accuse Texas of failing to take steps toward adopting a new statewide fire code, which, if one had been revised and in place, may have lowered the risk at the West Fertilizer Plant. They also want to know why the state still does not require facilities that stockpile such materials to carry liability insurance to protect their neighbors.
If any lesson has been learned from the tragedy at West, it may be that local communities need to be aware that in the end, they must shoulder the burden and responsibility of regulating industries within their jurisdiction that pose a threat or undue risks to the public's welfare.
For the residents of West, it is a lesson that has come with a major price tag.