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California Officials Investigating Loss of 30-Ton Shipment of Explosive Chemicals

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Investigators in California have launched a probe to discover what happened to tons of explosive materials that went missing from a train.

According to KQED, around “60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used as both fertilizer and a component in explosives, went missing as it was shipped by rail from Wyoming to California last month, prompting four separate investigations.”

The report noted further that “a railcar loaded with 30 tons of the chemical left Cheyenne, Wyoming, on April 12. The car was found to be empty after it arrived two weeks later at a rail stop in the Mojave Desert, according to a short incident report from the explosives firm that made the shipment.”

On May 10, the company Dyno Nobel submitted a report to the federal National Response Center (NRC). Last week, the report was included in the NRC’s California incident database, which is overseen by the state Office of Emergency Services, and was made available on Wednesday, the outlet reported, adding:

Ammonium nitrate is commonly used as fertilizer. It’s also an ingredient in high explosives and was used in the homemade bomb detonated in the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

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Dyno Nobel says it believes the material — transported in pellet form in a covered hopper car similar to those used to ship coal — fell from the car on the way to a rail siding (a short track connecting with the main track) called Saltdale about 30 miles from the town of Mojave in eastern Kern County.

A company spokesperson said, according to KQED: “The railcar was sealed when it left the Cheyenne facility, and the seals were still intact when it arrived in Saltdale. The initial assessment is that a leak through the bottom gate on the railcar may have developed in transit.”

However, a Federal Railroad Administration said that there are early indications that one of the hopper car gates was not properly closed.

According to Dyno Nobel, the trip spanned a duration of two weeks and encompassed various destinations. The company claims to have had “limited control” over the railcar while Union Pacific facilitated its transportation across the country.

The Federal Railroad Administration, the California Public Utilities Commission, Union Pacific, and Dyno Nobel are all looking into the mystery.

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In 2007, Congress enacted a law to establish regulations governing the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate, aimed at preventing its potential utilization in acts of terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security introduced proposed regulations in 2011, although they were not officially implemented, KQED reported.

Meanwhile, a report published on Sunday raised new concerns about the safety and security of the country’s top elected officials.

In response to mounting concerns about security risks faced by members of Congress, over 50 senators have reportedly been provided with satellite phones for emergency communication, as per sources familiar with the matter cited by CBS News.

The devices are among several new security measures being offered to senators by the Senate Sergeant at Arms, who assumed the role shortly after the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, the report added.

The offer of satellite a phone has been extended to all 100 senators, according to reports. CBS News revealed that a minimum of 50 senators have chosen to accept these phones and, as recommended by Senate administrative staff, were advised to keep the devices readily accessible while traveling.

CBS News added: A Department of Homeland Security advisory said satellite phones are a tool for responding to and coordinating government services in the case of a “man-made” or natural disaster that wipes out communication.”

“The new satellite phone system is one part of a new security program that includes hardening lawmaker offices and homes and seems geared towards domestic unrest that could threaten other communications networks like cell service,” said private domestic intelligence firm Forward Observer in its daily subscriber brief on Monday.

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