Sen. Boxer to probe Texas plant explosion

The chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Tuesday launched an investigation into the cause of the deadly Texas fertilizer plant explosion, vowing to explore potential gaps in current safety regulations.

Saying she “cannot rest until we get to the bottom of what caused the disaster,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced plans to convene a hearing on the accident earlier this month that killed 15 people, injured hundreds and obliterated a section of West, Texas.

ADVERTISEMENT
“It is critical that we find out how this happened,” Boxer said.

In advance of the yet unscheduled hearing, Boxer sent letters Tuesday to the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), requesting information about their findings in the aftermath of the explosion.

In the EPA letter, Boxer sought information about chemicals regulated under the agency’s Risk Management Program and questions why ammonium nitrate — the substance blamed for the blast — is not on the list.

Her line of inquiry signals the probe could lead to calls for new or more stringent regulation in the area.

“We will look at how the laws on the books are being enforced and whether there is a need to strengthen them,” Boxer said.

In the days after the accident, officials from the fertilizer industry told The Hill they were worried that the accident would trigger a rush of new rules to the already “rigorous regulatory structure” now in place.