The articles “Safety Board Is Barred from Accident Site” and “Fertilizer Blast Ignites Concerns” show the dysfunction in federal regulation, investigation, and enforcement (C&EN, May 27, pages 32 and 33).
By what authority can the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms and the Texas fire marshal bar the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board from the scene of the West Fertilizer Co. accident? What power does the Department of Homeland Security need to compel West and similar firms’ compliance with the agency’s regulations? Does the Environmental Protection Agency have a role? Should it?
Investigators who lack clear authority, priorities, and roles ensure that no meaningful data will emerge from this accident. The House and Senate Committees on Homeland Security have much to answer for here.