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Texas Stops Disclosing Locations of Sensitive Chemical Sites

Firefighters gather near the scene of the April 2013 fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas. The state has stopped disclosing locations of a chemical linked to the 2013 blast. Firefighters gather near the scene of the April 2013 fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas. The state has stopped disclosing locations of a chemical linked to the 2013 blast. (Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Texas is no longer publicly identifying the locations of a chemical linked to a deadly 2013 explosion, the Dallas Morning News reports.

The Texas attorney general ordered the State Health Services Department to stop disclosing sites that store ammonium nitrate, the newspaper reported on Friday. Authorities have blamed the substance for an April 2013 fertilizer-plant blast that killed 14 people and destroyed homes in the town of West.

The health department previously provided media organizations with information about dozens of sites where companies had declared stocks of the substance near schools and residential areas. Responding to a request by agency officials, though, the attorney general said that releasing such data violates an 11-year-old state ban on naming storage sites for any "chemical, biological agent, toxin, or radioactive material that is more than likely to be used in the construction or assembly of ... a weapon."

Any similar disclosures would require the attorney general's approval in the future, according to spokeswoman Carrie Williams. She added, though, that state health officials plan to keep providing emergency personnel with the location data.

Joseph Larsen, a lawyer for the Dallas Morning News, questioned the state's use of its 2003 antiterrorism law to withhold storage locations for ammonium nitrate and other materials.

"Claiming this statute as a basis for withholding is richly ironic given the public safety disaster that has resulted from failure to make the public aware of the presence of the massive quantities of fertilizer at the West plant in the first place," Larsen wrote in comments to the attorney general.

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