Following the massive explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, that killed 14 people and injured more than 200 others, Reps. George Miller and Joe Courtney asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate gaps in regulatory oversight of that plant and of similar facilities that distribute, blend, and store ammonia-related fertilizers across the U.S. The letter, dated April 25, asks GAO to investigate whether the West, Texas, plant was exempted from OSHA’s special emphasis program for chemical facilities and whether the facility was exempted from the agency’s process safety management standard that would otherwise cover anhydrous ammonia. In addition, the letter notes that ammonium nitrate fertilizer is currently not a chemical that facilities are required to report under EPA’s risk management plan program, and asks that GAO assess how many similar facilities are exempted from this disclosure.
“We are also concerned that [an explosion such as the one in West, Texas] may be possible at similar facilities across the nation, and that other workers and the communities may not be adequately protected,” the letter reads.
Reps. Miller and Courtney requested additional information from GAO, including:
- a comprehensive accounting of the numbers and types of fertilizer storage and distribution facilities in the U.S.
- the number and average frequency of inspections of such facilities conducted by OSHA and EPA or state programs
- whether there are recommendations by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to prevent such accidents, and whether such recommendations have been implemented