Senate wants early fertilizer explosion hearing

Published online: May 13, 2013

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said last week that she and the committee she heads plans to investigate the explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people and injured scores more.

Boxer is the head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and she said the panel will hold a hearing "in the near future" on the disaster and will probe whether there are any gaps in the enforcement of U.S. chemical safety laws.

Her committee is unlikely to be the only committee holding hearings, and some would say that Boxer could be trying to grab the spotlight by holding the first federal level hearing. She reportedly sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on April 30 requesting more information about the agency's oversight in chemical safety to bring herself up to speed.

The cause of the April 17 fire and explosion at West Fertilizer Co., about 20 miles north of Waco, is not yet known, and a fire marshal report is not anticipated until the end of the week with preliminary findings.

"I cannot rest until we get to the bottom of what caused the disaster in West, Texas, and the tragic loss of life," Boxer said in a statement. "It is critical that we find out how this happened."

A Texas state House committee held the first hearing on the explosion by a legislative body on May 1 in Austin, Texas.