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Boxer Urges States to Review Chemical Security Rules After Texas Tragedy

By Douglas P. Guarino

Global Security Newswire

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Tuesday announces she has sent a letter to the nation's governors asking for improved safety measures in the storage of ammonium nitrate, a chemical believed to have caused a deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant in April (AP Photo/Scott Applewhite). U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Tuesday announces she has sent a letter to the nation's governors asking for improved safety measures in the storage of ammonium nitrate, a chemical believed to have caused a deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant in April (AP Photo/Scott Applewhite).

WASHINGTON -- Saying that federal action on chemical security has been inadequate since a massive fertilizer plant explosion in Texas earlier this year, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is appealing to state governments to review their own regulations.

In a Tuesday letter sent to the governors of all 50 U.S. states, Boxer asks for study of all “applicable requirements” meant to prevent disasters such as the one that occurred in West, Texas, in April. In particular, she called attention to rules governing the handling of ammonium nitrate, which is believed to have caused the blast that killed 14 people and leveled nearby homes.

“The reason I wrote this letter to the governors is because the federal government isn’t doing enough right now,” Boxer said at a Tuesday press conference at the Capitol. “Until that time … the people who have the power need to do something about this.”

Among the federal agencies that have come under fire since the Texas tragedy is the Homeland Security Department, which some lawmakers and watchdog groups have criticized for failing to regulate the plant under its Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Standards. At a June hearing, Boxer also slammed the Environmental Protection Agency for what she said was an inadequate response.

Boxer on Tuesday reiterated her call on EPA officials to review their risk-management requirements for chemical facilities. She said the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, which she chairs, would host another hearing this fall in order to keep heat on the agency.

“I believe they should update the risk-management plan to mandate that ammonium nitrate be stored under safer conditions,” Boxer said. The chemical should “be stored in a separate facility when it’s stored in such large quantities and be protected from fire,” the senator said, without elaborating.

Boxer also renewed her demand that the agency issue a new warning regarding ammonium nitrate, noting it had not done so since 1997.

Republicans and major industry groups have been leery of new EPA rules on chemical security, arguing that DHS regulations are sufficient. Homeland Security, however, has yet to issue its own long-delayed rules on ammonium nitrate.

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