President Barack Obama signed an executive order August 1 for federal agencies to review the safety rules required at chemical facilities. The order comes in response to the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, that killed 15 and injured more than 160 in April. The cause of the blast has still not been determined.
“Chemicals, and the facilities where they are manufactured, stored, distributed and used, are essential to today's economy,” the order reads. “Past and recent tragedies have reminded us, however, that the handling and storage of chemicals are not without risk.”
The order calls on a federal working group that includes the Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency to launch a program to “validate best practices and to test innovative methods for federal interagency collaboration regarding chemical facility safety and security.”
This group must also establish a list of proposals to increase safety in handling and storing ammonium nitrate, the chemical that ignited in the West explosion.
Further requirements include establishing a better method for chemical agencies to share information and developing a unified approach to reporting incidents, responding to risks and enforcing safety measures.
After FEMA denied funding to West in June, many criticized the president. But now Obama appears to be making good on his promise to remember West residents.
"We are here to say you are not alone. You are not forgotten," Obama said in April at a memorial service for first responders, adding, "We’ll be there even after the cameras leave."