After the ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas over a year ago, the Dallas Morning News used data from the Texas Department of State Health Services to identify 74 other facilities that contain at least 10,000 pounds of the hazardous chemical.
Seven of the facilities were within one half mile of more than 1,000 Texas residents.
Although the state agency granted the newspaper access to the database after receiving a Texas Public Information Act request, Attorney General Greg Abbott has now made reports on where ammonium nitrate is stored confidential, meaning Texas citizens now have no way to know if they are living near a facility storing large amounts of explosive materials.
Read more about Abbott's decision to keep the information confidential after the jump.According to the Office of the Attorney General, the Texas Department of State Health Services will no longer release the reports because terrorists could come to Texas to steal the chemicals.
However, according to the Dallas Morning News, federal law requires the state to disclose information about ammonium nitrate storage:
Information about chemical stockpiles was made public as part of the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The federal law requires businesses each year to report large stores of chemicals. The information, recorded in so-called Tier II reports, is made available to first responders at all levels and the public.
Congress passed the law to help the public plan against toxic releases like the one in 1984 that killed thousands in Bhopal, India.
The state health department's website says the mission of the Tier II program “is to protect the public health and environment by providing current and accurate information about hazardous chemicals and their health effects.”
Just last week, a federal task force called for greater information-sharing and public awareness about chemical dangers in a report to President Barack Obama. He created the task force to overhaul U.S. chemical safety after 15 people died in the West disaster.
The state health department isn't the only agency that Greg Abbott is allowing to withhold records.
The Dallas Morning News also reported that the Office of Texas State Chemist did not release comprehensive information about fertilizer businesses that manufacture and process explosive chemicals.
“Details left out included names of the businesses and their addresses, making it difficult to know which ones passed or failed inspections,” the News reported.