Kicking off a weeklong trip around Texas on Tuesday, state Sen. Wendy Davis continued to attack her GOP opponent in the governor’s race, Attorney General Greg Abbott, for blocking release of information about where hazardous chemicals are stored.
Davis, D-Fort Worth, is criticizing an attorney general’s opinion that says the Texas Department of State Health Services doesn’t have to release information about reports that show where dangerous chemicals are stored statewide.
The public’s right to know where hazardous chemicals are stored has become an issue since the April 17, 2013, explosion that killed 15 people at the fertlizer plant in West.
“Greg Abbott is obviously doing everything he can to try to undo a mess he has made,” Davis said. “But let’s make no mistake about it: What Greg Abbott has ruled is that families do not deserve to know where these dangerous chemicals are stored.”
In a statement released before Davis’ appearance, the Abbott campaign said he was simply applying the law.
“Greg Abbott did not change any law or policy, he applied the Texas Homeland Security Act, which prevents state agencies from releasing information that could be used by terrorists to build bombs or to target certain facilities,” the Abbott campaign said.
Before the ruling, the state health agency released the information regularly. Davis noted that other states, including Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, make the information available.
If she is elected governor, Davis said, she would make the disclosure of dangerous chemicals an emergency legislative item that must be addressed in the first 60 days of the 2015 session.
“The community has a right to know about where these dangerous chemicals are stored,” Davis said. “And for decades, even after the passage of that particular law, Greg Abbott continued to stand for transparency but he has reversed course on that. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the connection between his course reversal.”
Davis was referring to donations of more than $75,000 to Abbot’s campaign from interests connected to Koch Industries.
The Koch brothers, Charles and David, have developed fundraising networks that back Republican candidates and are expected to spend millions to help Republicans reclaim control of the U.S. Senate. Koch Industries has a fertilizer division, Koch Fertilizer LLC.
“Mr. Abbott is not working for you,” Davis said.
Abbott’s campaign noted that Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van De Putte, along with other Democrats, has not objected to the Texas Homeland Security Act since its passage in 2003.
When he was first asked about the ruling, Abbott said residents could simply ask the companies what they have stored.
“You know where they are if you drive around, “ Abbott told reporters. “You can ask every facility whether or not they have chemicals or not. You can ask them if they do, and they can tell you, ‘Well we do have chemicals or we don’t have chemicals,’ and if they do, they tell which ones they have.”
Abbott later said residents would need to mail or email companies to find out what they store.