History certainly was no guide. After all, ammonia has been the key accelerant in some of the world's largest industrial accidents, including an explosion that killed hundreds in Toulouse, France, in 2001, and a 1947 blast that killed nearly 600 people in Texas City, Texas. The bomb assembled and planted by Timothy McVeigh next to the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 was fueled primarily by ammonium nitrate.
A 2008 report by the Center for American Progress called a Pasadena, Texas, fertilizer plant one of the most dangerous chemical plants in the country, since an accident there could make more than 3 million people vulnerable to a major gas release.
Against that backdrop, the question of why so close, at least in part, cuts to the heart of the civic pact of many American towns, both large and small, where industry and people forge a sort of mutualism that recognizes the symbiotic benefits of labor and profit, and fuels civic pride. After all, small towns from upstate New York to the Texas Panhandle have a similar motif, where a few industries, often near or in town, infuse economic vitality and give young people a reason to stay.