According to a recent article in the Austin American Statesman, Texans who want to learn more about the risks posed by chemical plants in their communities receive their instructions: no photocopying or cellphone pictures of the provided documents, which sketch out the worst-case scenarios at individual facilities and the safety measures company officials have taken. A sign warns those who enter the Environmental Protection Agency's federal reading room, "You are being monitored." The sign is superfluous: an EPA staffer remains in the room for the duration to ensure the strict rules are followed.
In an interesting article from the Dallas Morning News, the paper noted that the state of Texas makes bounce house operators actually carry liability coverage, but there is no similar requirement for fertilizer plants like the West Fertilizer plant that exploded. In the West Fertilizer case, the plant had ammonium nitrate that detonated leveling the area surrounding it, causing extensive damage, injuries, and deaths. Yet the early indications are that this plant only carried $1 million in liability insurance coverage.
According to a recent editorial in the Dallas Morning News, West residents were clueless about the extreme dangers they were living next to until an April 17 explosion killed 15 and devastated a 35-block area. This was not an accident this information was never shared, but on purpose. A little-known section of Texas law allows agencies to withhold information they regard as confidential concerning the handling, storage and transportation of extremely hazardous chemicals. Not only can state agencies claim the right under the law to ensure that the public remains in the dark, they can assert the right to not even explain why they will not release data.