Contact: Tom “Smitty” Smith, 512-797-8468
In Aftermath of West Explosion, Environmental Advocates Call on Legislature forStronger Safety Standards, Oversight and Adequate Funding
(TEXAS) – Leaders of Texas’ environmental organizations called on state legislators to protect against thenext environmental disasters by passing tougher legislation requiring more inspections, frequentenforcement, increased disclosure of toxic threats, better use of the compliance history program and ensuringcitizens have the right to contested case hearings. Groups urge the Texas Legislature to act now, not waituntil the next legislative session in 2015.Over the last few weeks, several major man-made disasters have made the news:
An explosion at the West Fertilizer plant killed at least 15 people - mostly first responders;
The ExxonMobil Pegasus tar sands spill in Mayflower, Arkansas forced residents from their homes,perhaps permanently; and
The fire at the ExxonMobil Beaumont refinery led to 12 workers being injured.Texas environmental organizations Public Citizen Texas, SEED Coalition, Environment Texas, TexasLeague of Conservation Voters, and Texas Campaign for the Environment released the following jointstatement regarding the importance of increased regulations:
All three of these tragedies took place at facilities that are supposed to be regulated andregularly inspected by federal and/ or state agencies. But years of state budget cuts andlax regulations have left communities at risk.
The West Fertilizer incident shows how badly the TCEQ has failed to protect Texans underGovernor Perry’s ‘business first’ administration. The TCEQ failed to inspect the plant evenafter three state and federal agencies found five violations at that plant over the last six years.The plant was operating without the proper permits and failed to properly train their workers,label dangerous products or to develop a worst case accident plan.Texas has a program that is supposed to target companies that have poor compliance recordswith extra inspections. The West Fertilizer plant was “unclassified” - meaning the TCEQdidn’t take the time to look at the plant’s record. Had TCEQ inspected the West Fertilizerfacility, we can only hope that they might have found the 270 tons of explosives at the siteand 15 people might not have died.
Budget cuts have real consequences. Over the last 4 years, funding for TCEQ has beencut back 34% and 295 employees have been laid off.