Toothless Eunuchs, Terrorists, and the Sad State of our Regulatory System
Read this, then I’ll translate:
(CNN) -- The fertilizer blamed for the massive explosion that devastated a Texas town in April was kept in wooden bins, in a wooden building, with no sprinklers nearby.
And that fell within the existing safety rules for handling ammonium nitrate, a "patchwork" of regulations, recommendations and guidance "that has many large holes," the head of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board told a Senate committee Thursday.
. . . .
Sprinklers aren't required until a company is storing 2,500 tons of ammonium nitrate, he said. And while industry groups have recommended fire safety standards, Texas has no statewide fire codes and most of its counties can't adopt their own.
"So at West, these fire code provisions were strictly voluntary, and West Fertilizer had not volunteered," he said.
. . . .
Moure-Eraso said the Chemical Safety Board urged the Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 to require non-combustible storage bins for reactive chemicals like ammonium nitrate, but the EPA hasn't done that. The committee's chairwoman, California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, said she will be pressuring the EPA to enact those rules.
. . . .
But the last time the Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected West Fertilizer was in 1985, when it fined the company $30 over its handling of anhydrous ammonia, another fertilizer it sold.
Texas won’t allow counties to enact fire safety regulations because Texas as a state wants to lure large industrial businesses here. So what if the occasional plant blows up and kills folks as long as Texas (a) has good tax revenues, and (b) has lots of jobs? Point B is especially important to the conservative legislators here who like to argue that lower regulations = more jobs.
And of course the EPA hasn’t done anything useful.
Last inspected in 1985, by OSHA you say? $30 dollar fine, you say? Clearly, OSHA is the toothless eunuch it always has been.
Want the worst part?
With a budget of $10.6 million and a current staff of 42, the Chemical Safety Board investigates chemical accidents and makes recommendations to prevent future ones. The board is also investigating the June 13 explosion at a chemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana, that killed two people and injured more than 100.
The agency has a lengthy backlog of cases and "no capacity at this point to undertake any new investigative work," he said.
If terrorists had been behind this, there would be no limit to the staff and budget to investigate. Billions of dollars in grants would pop up overnight to secure other plants to make sure this never happens again. Just goes to show that the government doesn’t care when corporations kill Americans, just when terrorists do.
By all accounts, this explosion was absolutely preventable, but our sad regulatory system turns a blind eye to corporate negligence because we want to protect our “job creators.”