Texas fertilizer plant

Here’s a map of the site of the fertilizer plant fire and explosion last evening in West, Texas. The town has a population of just under 3,000. I suspect there is no zoning board or anything of the sort in a town that size (if I’m wrong, someone say so). That being the case, I suppose it’s not surprising that there were homes and apartments within 1,500 feet of the plant. Nobody ever thinks there’s going to be a calamity. Still, I’d have thought there would be some Federal or State safety regulations about people living and going to school near ammonia storage tanks.


A map showing the blast radius of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, April 17, 2012.
/ CBS News


  1. West most definitely has zoning, as do almost all incorporated cities in Texas (Houston an obvious exception). There is also an “extra-territorial jurisdiction” giving cities limited control over property within two miles of city borders (mainly, proper platting and utilities, prevention of nuisances). The plant itself is not within the city limits. Texas does not have county-level zoning.

  2. If that’s the case, then the zoning people are/were naive as hell, especially in light of the later news that the plant managers admitted in February it had up to 270 tons of ammonium nitrate on site. See following post.

  3. To reiterate, the property is not within the city limits. Naive or not, the zoning people have negligible power over a property outside the city limits that has been there in some form for 50 years. Perhaps they could have complained more fervently to the state environmental commission.

    There are incongruous uses like this all over the state — small towns with agricultural/industrial uses in close proximity — remnants of an era when there were no regulations at all and environmental/safety concerns barely registered. For the most part, these plants are grandfathered when stricter regulations are effected.

  4. I missed your statement in the first comment that the plant was outside the city limits. Sorry.

    I understand about “grandfathering” old facilities, but maybe this will give some regulators or legislators pause before granting that status in the future.

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