Texas Plant Told State It Could Not Explode

Governor Perry requests federal state of emergency

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 18, 2013 2:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – News outlets are digging into the West Fertilizer plant's regulatory filings and finding that, in light of the explosion that may have killed as many as 15 people and injured about 160, the plant might have undersold the risks a tad. While the company did tell regulators it had up to 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on hand, it said there was "no" fire or explosive risk, Fox News reports. It said the absolute worst-case scenario would be an essentially harmless 10-minute gas leak.

In other developments:

  • Rick Perry is asking the federal government to declare an emergency for the area, the Dallas Morning News reports. "Last night was truly a nightmare scenario," he said. " This tragedy has most likely hit every family and touched practically everyone in that town."
  • Three to four volunteer firefighters are among the missing, as is the West city secretary. The blast destroyed as many as 75 buildings. The streets of the town are carpeted with the glass of storefront windows, and one 50-unit apartment complex stands with its brick facade blown completely away.
  • Documents obtained by the Dallas Morning News indicate that regulators didn't issue a permit for the facility until after it was already in use, and that they were well aware of its proximity to homes and a school. Columnist Tod Robberson writes that the incident should be a wake-up call to cities to zone dangerous businesses more carefully. "Someone needs to be called to account," he writes.
  • KUT notes that the explosion falls almost directly on the 66th anniversary of the Texas City Disaster, a devastating explosion caused by a ship containing ammonium nitrate.

This aerial photo shows a local school, at rear, and an apartment complex, at middle right, near a fertilizer plant explosion site, April 18, 2013, in Near West, Texas.
This aerial photo shows a local school, at rear, and an apartment complex, at middle right, near a fertilizer plant explosion site, April 18, 2013, in Near West, Texas.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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