Boxer Calls for Stricter Penalties for Safety Violations at Chemical-Fertilizer Plants

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 30: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) speaks during a press conference to highlight measures in the House version of a government shutdown bill that would deny women affordable contraception and other health care benefits that are provided under the Affordable Care Act. According to Senate Democrats, the Republican bill specifically targets women's preventive health care.  (National Journal)

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, called for stricter penalties for safety violations at chemical fertilizer plants Thursday and briefed members of the press on the status of an investigation into an explosion at a plant in West, Texas which resulted in 15 fatalities earlier this year.

Boxer told reporters that the Labor Department filed documents this week citing the West Fertilizer Company with 24 safety violations for exposing workers to health hazards from chemicals at the plant. The violations include unsafe handling and storage of anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate, which investigators say put plant workers at risk.

Boxer called for greater oversight of chemical fertilizer plants to prevent future accidents. "What has happened here is shocking, and investigations are ongoing," she said. "These plants are located in our communities, so we should all be working together to make sure these plants are safe."

The senator also warned that if a similar disaster were to occur today, federal response would be severely hampered because of the government shutdown. "God forbid if there was another explosion. We have the entire chemical safety board on furlough, the EPA is more than 90 percent shut, and now even the NRC is at 90 percent shutdown." She added, "We have to open the door and let the people have their government back."