The Brief: Top Texas News for April 18, 2013

A Texas Department of Public Safety official seal.
A Texas Department of Public Safety official seal.

The Big Conversation

With a small Texas town still reeling from a massive plant explosion on Wednesday, details of the blast's destructive toll are beginning to emerge.

Emergency responders continued throughout the night to treat and find casualties of the fertilizer plant explosion, which occurred shortly before 8 p.m. on Wednesday in West, located north of Waco. (Watch stunning video of the blast below.)

The explosion leveled nearby houses and businesses and injured more than 100 people, said D.L. Wilson, a state trooper with the Department of Public Safety, as the Waco Tribune-Herald reportsWilson wouldn't say how many deaths had been confirmed, but he compared the scene to the Iraq war and the Oklahoma City bombing.

 

"I can tell you I was there, I walked through the blast area, I searched some houses earlier tonight," Wilson said. "It was massive, just like Iraq, just like the Murrah building in Oklahoma City."

A nearby nursing home was badly hit, according to several reports, and several firefighters who were battling the blaze that sparked the explosion couldn't be found.

Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement that the state had "mobilized state resources to help local authorities."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said late Wednesday that it would send a team to investigate the accident. Incidentally, the explosion occurred the same day the Center for Public Integrity published a report on languishing Chemical Safety Board investigations. 

The Dallas Morning News also noted shortly after the explosion that the West plant had reported to the Environmental Protection Agency and local safety officials that it was at no risk of fire or explosion.

"The worst possible scenario, the report said, would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one," the Morning News reported.

Culled

•    Texans Ted Cruz, John Cornyn offer gun proposals but can’t get them through Senate (The Dallas Morning News): "Texas’ senators helped lead the charge against sweeping gun control proposals Wednesday, but their own proposals went down in the crossfire as well. Sen. John Cornyn sought to allow people with concealed weapon permits to use them nationwide, while fellow Republican Sen. Ted Cruz tried to spur more prosecutions of felons who try to buy guns."

 

•    House Acting on Recalled Disclosure Bill (The Texas Tribune): "The Texas House is moving ahead with a bill requiring disclosure of certain political donors, despite an effort by the Senate to pull the legislation back. The bill by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has been referred to a House committee, said Jason Embry, a spokesman for House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. The Senate had approved the bill on Tuesday, then attempted to 'recall' it on Wednesday. But the House already got custody of the bill and appears in no mood to give it back."

•    Disgraced Official’s Wife Accuses Him in Texas Killings (The New York Times): "The mystery of who shot and killed two prosecutors this year clouded life in this rural county southeast of Dallas for more than two months, with investigators delving into possible leads that led to white-supremacist groups and Mexican drug cartels. But in the end, it apparently came down to a bitter local grudge. A former justice of the peace whose legal and political career collapsed in a hard-fought legal battle was accused Wednesday of killing the two prosecutors, who had been his courtroom rivals. And his wife not only named him as the gunman, but also confessed to having been the driver in both shootings as part of her role in the vendetta, the authorities said."

•    Perry favors sitting on $7 billion of rainy day money (The Dallas Morning News): "State leaders’ jockeying over rainy day money intensified Wednesday as Gov. Rick Perry said lawmakers should sit on about $7 billion of savings. Perry also criticized a Senate panel’s plan to use $6 billion from the rainy day fund for infrastructure. 'That’s a little too much,' he told reporters after he met with the House Republican Caucus behind closed doors."

•    Texas Senate committee votes to repeal anti-gay law (The Associated Press): "The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted on Wednesday to repeal the state's anti-gay sodomy law, a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. Texas, along with Oklahoma and Kansas, will be the only states that still have the law on the books after Montana's legislature approved its repeal of the measure and the governor pledged to sign it."

Must-Read

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