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State Lawmakers Introduce Amber Alert-Style Bill For Chemical Accidents

Lawmakers in Texas are aiming to address the gap in knowledge between the industry and the public with a bill that would require an Amber Alert-style warning to be sent out during chemical emergencies.

Safety experts have long complained that the public is not adequately warned about the inherent dangers of living near chemical plants.

Now lawmakers in Texas are aiming to address the gap in knowledge between the industry and the public with a bill that would require an Amber Alert-style warning to be sent out during chemical emergencies.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the bill would mandate the creation of a system that sends out a mobile alert if any chemical incident would “substantially endanger human health or the environment.” Residents could opt out of receiving the alerts if they want.

Currently, various government agencies are responsible for telling the public to chemical plant-related dangers, but there are times when no notification is sent at all.

Instead, the bill’s backers want the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — who receive notifications from companies when there’s a toxic chemical release — to be in charge of sending out alerts.

However, because that reporting is based on information sent by the company, there is still the potential for the public to not be adequately warned. The Chronicle points out that during a 2014 accident that killed four workers at DuPont’s La Porte plant, the company official that initially called 911 said there was no risk to the public. But a later investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board found that the pesticide chemical that was released during the accident could have ignited and exploded. 

Despite potential flaws in the proposed system, local advocates for increased chemical safety hope the bill will be a good first step in the right direction.

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