Probe finds scant oversight of chemical plants

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's the chemical that exploded last year at a Texas fertilizer plant, killing 14 people. But congressional investigators say the government has no way of fully knowing which U.S. chemical facilities stock ammonium nitrate.

A new report obtained by The Associated Press says that's one example of the limited federal oversight of chemical facilities. The report points to outdated federal policies, poor sharing of information with states, and a raft of industry exemptions.

It also finds regulatory gaps in protections for workers and the environment.

The report, from the Government Accountability Office, concludes that without improved monitoring, federal regulators won't know "the extent to which dangerous conditions at some facilities may continue to exist."

The GAO found that the Homeland Security Department's database includes only a fraction of the ammonium nitrate storage facilities in the United States. The federal database includes more than 1,300 facilities in 47 states. But spot checks of similar state records found that the federal list missed as many as two-thirds of the storage sites.

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