President Barack Obama signed an executive order late last week that aims to improve safety and security at U.S. chemical facilities. The action comes in response to the massive April explosion at a fertilizer depot in West, Texas, that killed 15 people. The White House directive calls on various federal agencies to identify ways to help state governments and local emergency planning commissions ensure that facilities that manufacture and store hazardous chemicals are safe and secure. “Chemicals, and the facilities where they are manufactured, stored, distributed, and used, are essential to today’s economy,” the order notes. “Past and recent tragedies have reminded us, however, that the handling and storage of chemicals are not without risk.” The executive order also calls for improved coordination among federal, state, and local agencies in the regulation of chemical plants. Agencies are being told to do a better job of sharing information about the facilities and to determine whether additional chemicals should be covered by existing federal regulatory programs.