U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), a long-time advocate for improving safety at chemical plants, released a statement today following a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas, where as many as 15 people have been killed and 160 injured. More than 50 homes, a nursing home, apartment complex, and numerous businesses in the area were damaged or destroyed by the explosion.
Senator Lautenberg has spearheaded legislation to require thousands of chemical and water plants throughout the country to assess and develop plans to address their vulnerabilities, and would require the highest-risk facilities to use Inherently Safer Technology (IST) that increases public and environmental safety.
"My heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of those killed and injured by the chemical plant explosion in Texas, including the brave first responders who rushed in to help their neighbors. I've been fighting for years to ensure that chemical plants use the safest chemicals and processes available to prevent this type of tragedy," Lautenberg said. "In New Jersey and the surrounding area, more than 12 million people live near a high-risk plant, and a catastrophic accident or terrorist attack would have devastating consequences. Communities located near chemical facilities deserve to know that all reasonable steps are being taken to reduce the risk of a chemical explosion. We need to pass my legislation to require facilities to thoroughly review risk and help us move toward more secure plants and safer communities."
Sen. Lautenberg's "Secure Water Facilities Act" and "Secure Chemical Facilities Act" would require changes for the highest-risk facilities, preventing undue burdens on small, low-risk facilities while protecting against the greatest threats. Some of the changes that can be implemented at water and chemical plants include reducing the amount of lethal gases stored on-site or minimizing the use of dangerous chlorine gas. Additional information about the legislation can be found here.
Lautenberg is the author of legislation that created the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which is currently investigating the Texas explosion. The Board investigates industrial accidents and issues recommendations to prevent them in the future.