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Texas Tragedy Spurs Chemical Plant Safety Legislation

The fertilizer plant explosion that killed fourteen people in Texas spurs new legislation. 

Fertilizer Plant Explosion In West, Texas
Erich Schlegel, Getty Images

Under the legislation unveiled by U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, it would be a crime for facilities to fail to register the dangerous chemicals stored on-site.  The bill also would increase civil penalties, and fix a loophole in existing law that limits the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to issue penalties.

Under current federal law, chemical plants and other facilities in possession of dangerous chemicals have to register with the Department of Homeland Security. However, the Texas explosion occurred at a fertilizer plant that was not registered, making it unlikely that first responders knew the facility had large quantities of ammonium nitrate on site.

“The chemical reporting laws on the books today are toothless and do little to help us protect communities from chemical explosions,” said Lautenberg. “Facilities that break the reporting rules today essentially get away with just a warning, so my legislation would stiffen penalties and make it a federal crime for plants to intentionally keep their possession of dangerous chemicals a secret.”

“Millions of Americans live near chemical facilities, and we owe it to them to ensure that safety measures are being taken to prevent deadly accidents,” explained Lautenberg. “Chemical plants present an especially dangerous potential threat in my home state of New Jersey, and we can’t allow negligent facilities to put first responders and neighboring residents at risk again.”



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