The Texas legislature has finally passed legislation for new regulations pertaining to the storage and handling of ammonium nitrate, which was the source of the 2013 explosion at the West, Texas, fertilizer facility that killed 15 people.
The legislation went to Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature to become law the end of last week.
“What we’ve done in the bill were the right steps to swing the pendulum to the middle,” said State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) in describing the balance between protecting health and safety and keeping minimal regulation, as reported by the Dallas Morning News. Birdwell contends that the changes will not be burdensome to business.
The legislation attempts to clarify and redefine regulatory procedures and processes, according to additional reports from Texas. The inspection of facilities by the state and local fire marshals, who will have the power of citing facility owners for code violations, is included in the legislation. Reports on chemical storage will now go to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality instead of the Department of State Health Services, and copies must be shared with local fire departments.
Ammonium nitrate will need to be stored separate from combustible materials, and clarification on whether that will require construction of fireproof storage has not been included in initial reports about the legislation. There is no provision requiring sprinkler systems or automatic chemical fire retardant systems to be installed.
Several other bills that have been introduced since the 2013 blast haven’t made it through committee or legislative votes. A bill that hasn’t moved ahead, mentioned by the Dallas Morning News, is a proposal requiring facilities storing ammonium nitrate to have liability insurance, which is not required of fertilizer storage companies at present. The newspaper reported The West Fertilizer Co. had $1 million in liability insurance, but the cost of damaged property at the town has been estimated to be up to $240 million.
To read the Dallas Morning News article click here.