Target: Texas Governor Rick Perry
Goal: Improve safety guidelines for the state’s fertilizer plants
On April 17, 2013, a massive explosion occurred at a West, Texas fertilizer plant, killing 14 people and leaving over 200 others gravely injured. The explosion destroyed nearby buildings, including a 50-unit apartment complex and a nearby school. However, since the deadly explosion, the government of Texas has done almost nothing to increase safety measures in its 74 fertilizer plants across the state, and remains one of only four states lacking in statewide guidelines regarding fire and storage safety in chemical plants.
According to certain reports, the West, Texas explosion was highly preventable and likely occurred due to many factors related to lack of safety regulation. The fertilizer plant allegedly stored toxic and explosive chemicals such as ammonium nitrate in wooden boxes, failed to inform local officials of toxic chemicals on the site until six years after federal law required, and did not instruct employees on safety procedures in the event of a fire or explosion. In addition, the Texas Department of State Health Services claims that it is not allowed to manage such chemicals as those found at the West fertilizer plant, and that it is the duty of local officers to provide such regulation. Furthermore, a lack of funding means that not only do small counties throughout the state lack fire codes, but fire departments would also be unable to enforce such codes due to lack of equipment.
Since the explosion, the government of Texas has done nothing to adequately address the host of issues that led to an otherwise preventable tragedy. Instead, the only definitive step the state of Texas has taken towards preventing future disasters is to create a website that informs citizens of the location of nearby fertilizer plants. This information, while helpful to locals in the area, does almost nothing to prevent similar tragedies from occurring.
While the Texas state fire marshal has pledged to conduct voluntary inspections of facilities and offer recommendations on fire safety, only strict, state-mandated regulations can absolutely ensure that future explosions do not happen. However, Governor Rick Perry has failed to address the serious lack of safety standards for fertilizer plants in the state, and such regulations are not being considered in current sessions. Demand that Governor Perry focus efforts on increasing fire safety standards throughout the state of Texas, and therefore help prevent future disasters at fertilizer plants.
Dear Governor Rick Perry,
The recent explosion that occurred at a West, Texas fertilizer plant was a horrible tragedy that could have and should have been prevented. Due to a disturbing lack of state regulations, the specific plant was allowed to practice unsafe storage methods, and failed to adequately prepare for potential fires and/or explosions.
Because of Texas laws prohibiting rural counties from enacting fire codes (areas where most fertilizer facilities happen to be located), there were no standardized safety measures set in place to prevent such a disaster.
In the months since the explosion, the state of Texas has done almost nothing to combat this serious issue. Rather than focus on increasing safety for workers and citizens who reside nearby these facilities, Texas lawmakers have instead chosen to focus efforts on other hot-button issues such as the closure of abortion clinics throughout the state. The result is that fire safety and storage regulations have taken a back seat.
I strongly urge you to focus on reversing the prohibition on rural counties imposing fire codes, and create stronger safety measures for fertilizer plants and other chemical facilities in Texas. In this way, you will help to ensure that future tragedies do not occur.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Charles O’Rear via Wikimedia Commons