‘No alarms, automatic shutoff system or firewall’

Updated
 

The scene in West, Texas, is just devastating, and the story is still unfolding. After the fertilizer-plant explosion, as many as 15 people have been killed, more than 160 injured, dozens of buildings have been destroyed, and much of the community has seen awful damage.

What’s more, it’s worth emphasizing that there may yet be people trapped in rubble, and first responders and rescue crews are still working hard at the scene.

But once the area is able to catch its breath and begin to recover, I hope there will be a very serious conversation about workplace regulations.

The operators of the Texas fertilizer plant where at least five people died in a blast Wednesday told government regulators two years ago there wasn’t a major risk of a fire or explosion from ammonia stored at the plant.

West Fertilizer Co. told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 that it was storing up to 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at the plant, north of Waco, as part of a required “risk-management plan.” The plan said that neither fire nor explosion has been identified as a significant hazard, according to a summary of the plan on the website of the Center for Effective Government, a nonprofit group that posts the EPA data.

In the risk-management plan, West Fertilizer said the “worst-case scenario” would be an ammonia leak from a storage tank or hose. It didn’t specify the likely consequences. The company said the plant had no alarms, automatic shutoff system or firewall. 

Let me just repeat that last sentence again: “The company said the plant had no alarms, automatic shutoff system or firewall.”

Rachel will have more on the story out of West on tonight’s show.

Texas and Regulations

'No alarms, automatic shutoff system or firewall'

Updated