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May 23rd, 2014

Investigation Finds Little Oversight of Chemical Plants

new report finds that the U.S. government is not fully aware of which U.S. chemical plants are stocking ammonium nitrate, the substance responsible for last year’s West fertilizer plant explosion, killing 14 people.

The report, obtained by the Associated Press, finds outdated policies, poor information sharing, and industry exemptions combine to create poor federal oversight. Regulatory gaps in environmental and worker protections were also found.

The report, by the Government Accountability Office, states that without improved federal monitoring, federal regulators would not know “the extent to which dangerous conditions at some facilities may continue to exist.”

In preparing the report, the GAO found that a Homeland Security Department database tracks only a fraction of ammonium nitrate storage facilities. While the database shows 1,345 facilities in 47 states storing this substance, spot checks found the federal list missed as much as two-thirds of sites. Companies’ noncompliance, legal loopholes and poor federal-state coordination are cited as the cause of this disparity.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Homeland Security Department generally agreed with the findings, pointing out that states are not required to report their data to federal agencies.

The Texas plant explosion attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers help workers and others who are injured by refinery accidents. Contact us with any questions or to schedule a consultation.

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