Blaze in Deadly Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast ‘Intentionally Set,’ ATF Says

Arson is the cause of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people, including 12 first responders, in April 2013. That’s what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Houston division announced today.

The ATF is now offering a $50,000 reward for information on the supposed criminal act. No arrests have been made, and the ATF is still looking for those responsible. The announcement comes roughly three weeks after the third anniversary of the disaster.

West Texas fertilizer plant

(A law enforcement vehicle drove through the blast area from the fertilizer plant explosion April 18, 2013, in West, Texas. Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is about to wrap up the comment period on its chemical security proposal on Friday. That proposal aims to comply with a White House executive order issued after West explosion. I wrote a recent story on the proposal, and it’s available for subscribers, EPA Rejects House Plea to Extend Chemical Security Outreach.  

The Texas Attorney General opposes the proposal, which would boost chemical information sharing and force companies to explore safer manufacturing and housing methods.

Industry members and some lawmakers also oppose it. Those critics say the rule will actually raise the risk of terrorism by making public the details of their chemical storage.

Critics also say the EPA proposal wouldn’t have prevented the West explosion, because it doesn’t cover ammonium nitrate, the chemical stored at that facility.

The Labor and Homeland Security departments are pushing forward with similar rules.  

west texas apartment blast  

(The remains of an apartment complex next to the fertilizer plant that exploded in West, Texas. Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

An ATF spokeswoman said the investigation took this long, because it involved about 400 interviews, extensive screening of available videos and a recreation of the environment.   

By Brian Dabbs, @briandabbs