In April 2013, an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, claimed the lives of 15 people. In response to the incident, President Obama signed an executive order which, among other things, established the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group, a task force to consider how to improve safety at chemical facilities. The task force included representatives from the Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Transportation as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency. This week, the task force released its initial proposal for stakeholder comment and feedback. The proposal includes a review of existing regulations and recommends potential changes within each department or agency.

Congress has also examined safety issues surrounding chemical facilities. Hearings have been held in both the House and Senate on the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards to gauge the program's effectiveness and consider improvements. Furthermore, legislation has been introduced to address both safety standards and liability issues for chemical facilities. Congress is expected to continue to consider these bills because of the loss of life.

Interested parties and stakeholders should take advantage of this opportunity to weigh in with the task force about the options suggested as well as other improvements not included within the document. The public comment period for this proposal ends March 31, 2014. In addition to accepting public comments, public meetings have been scheduled for California, Washington, D.C., and Houston.