By:  The Editorial Board
Source: Houston Chronicle

Trump is doing nothing to prevent another Beirut in Texas. We want to know why.

Beirut’s deadly Aug. 4 blast has prompted a U.S. House committee to urge the Trump administration to revive dormant efforts to toughen safety standards for dangerous chemicals — including one that has killed hundreds and injured thousands of Texans through the years.

That’s most welcome news — even though it’s not likely by itself to have any meaningful impact so long as the Trump administration remains uniformly hostile to regulations that impose costs on businesses, no matter how urgent the safety benefits. 

This week’s letter urges the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — part of the Department of Labor — to resume work strengthening standards for chemicals such as ammonium nitrate. That single chemical has left wreckage and death from Beirut to Timothy McVeigh’s terror attack on the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 to two devastating chemical explosions in Texas in 1947 and 2013.

“In order to prevent any future tragedies like the explosions in West, Texas or Beirut, Lebanon,” reads the letter from the leaders of the Committee on Education and Labor, “we call on you to put the [higher safety standards] back on the active regulatory agenda and invest resources to ensure its timely issuance in order to protect plant workers, emergency responders and the surrounding communities from the tragic consequences of ammonium nitrate explosions.”

The letter, signed by the committee chairman, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and two others, also demanded that if OSHA did not resume work on reforms it had begun under President Obama and then promptly ceased under President Trump, the agency should provide a detailed explanation as to why.

We’d like to ask the same thing — and not just of the Trump administration in Washington. Given Texas’ painful familiarity with the dangers of ammonium nitrate, why haven’t all Texans in Congress, regardless of party, demanded that federal regulators at the EPA and OSHA strengthen safety standards governing its handling and storage?

The 1947 ammonium nitrate explosion in Texas City killed nearly 600 people and injured thousands in a blast so large some local residents reported that they believed America had suffered a nuclear attack. It remains the deadliest industrial accident in U.S. history. Seven years ago, 15 Texans — including 12 first responders — lost their lives when a fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded.