High-Hazard Chem Plants — Can Secrecy Substitute for Safety?

April 13, 2016

Not knowing about hazardous chemicals can kill you. When the fertilizer depot in West, Texas, caught fire in 2013, brave first responders rushed to the site, likely not knowing how much ammonium nitrate was stored there. Twelve of the 15 people killed when the depot exploded were first responders.

Reflexive secrecy has been a hallmark of government efforts to deal with highly hazardous chemical facilities in recent decades. Another reminder of that secrecy came in an April 11, 2016, piece in Greenwire by Sam Pearson.

The Greenwire piece revealed that regulations from the Department of Homeland Security keep the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from telling the public which chemical facilities are failing to comply with "risk management plan" rules. It went on to reveal that EPA could not disclose the plants that were no longer subject to the rules because they had been made safe.

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