Notes & Noticias: Coal Rolling — A Dangerous Trend in Texas

Have you heard of coal rolling? It is the act of emitting big clouds of black smoke onto cars, cyclists and pedestrians on the roadways. This relatively new trend is a pretty awful phenomenon that is making waves on YouTube. More than that, it is a public safety risk that needs to end.
That is why I filed House Bill 3050, which is being heard in the House Committee on Transportation this afternoon. It would prohibit the retrofitting of vehicles to allow coal rolling and would ban the actual act of rolling coal on our roadways. This is modeled after bipartisan legislation that unanimously passed the New Jersey Senate last year.

Bill of the Week: Keeping Families Safe

I have snagged the Austin Chronicle’s “Bill of the Week” honor for the third time this session. House Bill 2470 would protect vulnerable Texas families by requiring ammonium nitrate facilities to carry an adequate amount of liability insurance in the event of a disaster.
The fire and resulting detonation of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate at the West Fertilizer Company in 2013 wreaked havoc on the surrounding community. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has called it the worst of any chemical accident in its history. The explosion in West was so violent that it was heard 80 miles away, registering a magnitude 2.1 tremor according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It killed 15 people: 10 firefighters, their two civilian helpers, and three residents. Injury estimates have exceeded 300 people.
Ammonium nitrate is an explosive chemical, which was used by the U.S. Army in World War II. It was a key component in the bomb used by domestic terrorists in Oklahoma City. History also records it resulting in the loss of 581 lives in the 1947 explosion in Texas City. Disaster was only narrowly averted in June 2014 when a warehouse storing ammonium nitrate near the town center of Athens caught fire.
The explosion in West was large, damaging and destroying scores of structures, including schools, a nursing home, an apartment complex, and families’ homes. Estimates of the property loss alone may exceed $230 million. The facility was underinsured by only carrying $1 million in liability insurance. Currently, facilities with fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate are not required to carry any liability insurance under state law. At least 74 facilities in Texas store at least 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate or ammonium nitrate-based explosive material. Approximately 20,000 people live within a half mile of these sites. Many facilities across the state are grossly underinsured, thus posing a risk to life and property. My bill would fix that and help protect Texas families.


Eddie Rodriguez