Fewer Regulations In New West Blast Bill

Aug 6, 2014

Texas lawmakers continue to work on a bill to regulate fertilizer plants storing ammonium nitrate, the main agent in last year’s explosion in West.

Members of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee say regulations in the current draft of the bill wouldn’t go into effect until 2016. 

The new draft doesn’t raise fees for fertilizer plants storing ammonium nitrate in their facilities. That had been a worry for some stakeholders in the fertilizer industry. Donnie Dipple is the president of The Texas Ag Industries Association.

“We really appreciate you taking the fire code out. We appreciate you taking the penalties out," said Dipple in a hearing on Tuesday in front of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.

Previous proposals had also included requirements for facilities to keep ammonium nitrate under fire sprinklers and in noncombustible containers. But the new draft shies away from specific requirements or using the national fire code as an outline for regulations. Representative Joe Pickett is a Democrat from El Paso, and chair of the committee. 

"This draft shows, I hope where we wind up with some minimal regulations," Pickett said. "But what I also think is necessary."

Pickett says rules won’t go into effect until 2016.

This version of the bill calls for an advisory committee made up of fire chiefs, local governments, members of the agriculture industry and state agencies to make the rules – not Texas legislators as proposed in earlier, working drafts.

Texas State Fire Marshall Chris Connealy said during the hearing the proposed draft was very workable. 

"I like the opportunity for stake holders to come together," said Connealy. "That all the different groups that have invested interest have all the same collective goals: Try and prevent another West."

The newest draft of the bill would still require facilities to report storing ammonium nitrate within 72 hours.

Before the West explosion, facilities had to report within 90 days.