Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast May Lead to New Chemical Reporting Regs

Following a devastating explosion last year at a Texas fertilizer plant, U.S. regulators are considering new rules for chemical storage facilities, which could lead to new reporting requirements or alternatives to the use of some volatile chemicals.  

The U.S. Department of Labor published proposed policy options and a request for public comment on January 6.

The policy options come in the wake of a West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people in April 2103. The explosion occurred at the West Texas Fertilizer Co., run by Adair Grain, which held 270 tons of ammonium nitrate and 110,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, which can be set off by water. The tremendous explosion leveled part of the small town.

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The proposed regulations regarding chemical storage were developed by an inter-agency working group after President Barack Obama issued an executive order in October calling for a way be found to prevent similar explosions in the future.

One of the policy options under consideration would lower the threshold for ammonium nitrate that requires a company to tell the government it is storing. Some say the lower amount would require many farmers who use ammonium nitrate as fertilizer to begin reporting to the government as well. Other dangerous chemicals would need to be reported as well.

The group is also considering requiring companies use alternatives to some dangerous chemicals.

Adair Grain faces several lawsuits as a result of the deadly blast, including wrongful death claims and lawsuits that say the explosion caused significant property loss and damage for area residents. The lawsuits claim the company was negligent in its storage of the chemicals.

The public comment period on the proposed policy options is open until March 31, 2014.

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