Trump Administration Rolls Back Regulations Enacted After West Explosion

Nov 25, 2019

From Texas Standard:

In 2013, a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the small city of West, Texas, killed 15 people and injured hundreds more. The Environmental Protection Agency, under the Obama administration, instituted regulations to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. Now the Trump administration is reversing those regulations.

Matt Dempsey is the Houston Chronicle's data editor, and he's been writing about the regulation rollback with environmental reporter Perla Trevizo. Dempsey says the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, says the explosion in West was caused by arson, but hasn't arrested anyone for the crime.

The Trump administration says it should be able to roll back the Obama-era rules because the West explosion was caused by arson, not  a lack of regulation. Dempsey says the Chemical Safety Board and many other experts disagree, saying that if regulations had been in place in 2013, the fire could have been prevented.

"Almost as soon as Obama left office and the Trump administration came in, these rules were under attack," Dempsey says.

The regulations required a third-party audit after any incident like the West explosion. And they gave the public greater access to information about hazardous materials stored at a site.

Dempsey says the regulations required companies to produce and provide more information about their work, but that they required very little change to companies' practices.

"The Trump administration said these rules were unnecessary," Dempsey says.

The administration said doing away with the regulations would save the petrochemical industry $88 million per year – equivalent to 12% of ExxonMobil's daily revenue.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.