West,Texas -updates

Once again we see the great state of TX and its attitude toward government in the news. If you do not believe in inspections or in regulation, often the results are tragic.

This is the recent blog post from the firm IEM. It summarizes the latest issue quite well, I think.

Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Raises Questions About Planning and Zoning

Posted: 18 Apr 2013 06:41 PM PDT

Author: David Willauer, Transportation Manager, IEM

The explosion at the West Fertilizer plant in West, Texas, this week serves as a sobering reminder of the role of planning and zoning for facilities near chemical plants. Why were a middle school and a nursing home located so close to a fertilizer plant that stores and uses dangerous chemicals, such as anhydrous ammonia?

Planning and zoning officials often do not have critical information such as downwind hazard zones or isolation protective action distances during the planning board process. As a result, schools, nursing homes, residential subdivisions, and child care facilities are often built too close to chemical facilities with downwind hazard zones or too close to highways and railroads transporting chemicals with known recommended isolation protective action distances.

[The authors notes that his firm is working with local officials and industries in several states to gather real data about hazardous materials storage and transport and to translate that into actionable intelligence that helps planning officials make more informed zoning and facility siting decisions. This process is also building stronger bonds between industry, communities, and local officials as they collaborate more closely to improve public protection.]

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For those interested in the important details, situation reports are being issued by the Texas Dept. of Emergency Management.

Updates

  1. As of April 20th, West TX received a Presidential Emergency Declaration. The text of the declaration is here.
  2. Also at issue is the role of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Plus, the role of the EPA is being questioned.
  3. As of April 21, there is mention of a special federal investigation panel. That probably refers to the Chemical Safety Board.
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