Workers’ Rights

Published — April 23, 2014 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Deadly Texas fertilizer plant explosion blamed on regulatory failures


Failures at “all levels of government” contributed to last year’s fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, which killed 14 people and injured 226, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board reported Tuesday.

Issuing the board’s preliminary findings on the April 17, 2013, accident at West Fertilizer, Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said the explosion “never should have occurred. It resulted from the failure of a company to take the necessary steps to avert a preventable fire and explosion and from the inability of federal, state and local regulatory agencies to identify a serious hazard and correct it.”

Investigators determined that a large amount of ammonium nitrate was ignited by a fire and leveled the facility. They found, among other things, that there is no state fire code and that “counties under a certain population are prohibited from having them.” They identified 1,351 facilities around the country that store ammonium nitrate.

In a story last year, the Center for Public Integrity reported that investigations at the board had languished because of what some critics characterized as mismanagement. The Center found that the number of accident reports, case studies and safety bulletins had fallen sharply since 2006.

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