At 4:00 p.m. today, the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plan to announce the results of their investigation of the West, Texas fertilizer explosion that killed 14 people and injured over 200.
Information leaked to The Dallas Morning News indicated that investigators have three possible explanations for the explosion fueled by ammonium nitrate: ignition from a faulty golf cart, ignition from the fertilizer and seed building’s electrical system or an intentional act.
No matter what the conclusion, we’ve learned some very important lessons from this tragedy:
- There is not enough coordination among state agencies covering the oversight of facilities like West;
- Current penalties and fines don’t seem to be a deterrent to the those who violate safety and environmental laws;
- There is a need for more thoughtful consideration as to appropriate locations of schools, hospitals and nursing facilities; and
- There is a critical need for local emergency responders to have the best possible information regarding hazardous materials and potential health and safety risks in their communities.
As we begin to wrap up the legislative session in Texas, we are hopeful that our elected officials will do the right thing and strengthen environmental and safety protections instead of weaken them. Over 400 people a year lose their lives in Texas from occupational injuries. We can and should do better.
On a personal note, I’d like to give a shout out to my favorite Texan, Willie Nelson, 80 years young, who hosted a birthday concert benefitting the community of West and raised over $120,000. Thank you Willie!