Texans still have vivid memories of last year's violent chemical plant explosion in West, a small, formerly peaceful town about halfway between Waco and Hillsboro, Texas. The blast, one of the most powerful such explosions of the past decade, completely destroyed the facility and leveled adjacent neighborhoods. 15 people, many of whom were first responders, perished in the carnage. Hundreds more suffered injuries that required medical treatment, and countless victims and surviving family members contacted a refinery explosion attorney to secure justice for their losses. Regulation in the Wake of the West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Given the national publicity that the explosion received and the scars that it left on the tight-knit community of West, observers would be forgiven for expecting Texan lawmakers and regulatory authorities to take immediate action to prevent similar incidents in the future. In spite of obvious gaps in the state's current regulatory framework for volatile compounds, including ammonium nitrate fertilizer, little movement has occurred since last April. As other matters and interests jockey for state lawmakers' attention, the window for action may be closing. "It seems wrong that lives were lost in vain," said Environmental Defense Fund health scientist Elena Craft in a recent Houston Chronicle report on the lack of action. It is still possible that something tangible will emerge from the current legislative session. At the moment, many of the guidelines in place for Texas chemical plants are voluntary or weakly enforced. This reduces their practical impact and allows companies to circumvent or openly flout rules that could prevent accidents and save lives. Members of the Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety aim to change that. Unfortunately, their efforts are complicated by powerful business allies in the state legislature. While no one disputes that chemical and hydrocarbon industries in Texas need to remain competitive, there are huge differences of opinion about how to accomplish this. "I want to turn the ought-to-dos into statute," said the committee's chairman in the same Chronicle report, "but I want something that even the staunchest anti-regulation people say is a good idea." In practice, such an agreement may prove elusive. Changes currently being discussed include narrowly focused measures that only improve chemical storage protocols for facilities that process ammonium nitrate. While this would benefit towns like West, it would have little impact on the larger petrochemical plants and refineries that support the energy economy of the Texas Gulf Coast region. Not Just Fertilizer Ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient in fertilizer, is just one of the many explosive compounds that the state of Texas regulates loosely. As a major producer of oil-based products as well as a major hub for the refinery business, Texas is at risk for petrochemical plant explosions that rival the West blast in intensity and destructive power. In 2005, for instance, a BP oil refinery in Texas City suffered a catastrophic blast that killed more than a dozen workers and rendered the facility inoperable for months. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not maintain a precise definition of "industrial accidents" or keep track of deaths that result from such incidents, Texas had the highest rate of workplace deaths in 2011 and perennially finishes at or near the top of state ranking lists in this dubious category. In West, a post-incident investigation found a history of safety violations, improper storage protocols and excess ammonium nitrate stockpiles at the destroyed fertilizer plant. Despite indications that the explosion was the result of such lapses, there remains significant resistance to tough regulation - or any regulation at all - at the highest levels of Texas's government. When the Chronicle asked Governor Perry's office about the need for additional regulation, a spokesperson downplayed the investigation's findings and indicated that strong regulation would not be forthcoming. For now, Texan industrial workers and their families must plan accordingly.